WO1999042200A1 - Aerosol method and apparatus for making particulate products - Google Patents

Aerosol method and apparatus for making particulate products

Info

Publication number
WO1999042200A1
WO1999042200A1 PCT/US1999/003970 US9903970W WO1999042200A1 WO 1999042200 A1 WO1999042200 A1 WO 1999042200A1 US 9903970 W US9903970 W US 9903970W WO 1999042200 A1 WO1999042200 A1 WO 1999042200A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
aerosol
particles
gas
furnace
preferably
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US1999/003970
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Mark J. Hampden-Smith
Toivo T. Kodas
Quint H. Powell
Original Assignee
Superior Micropowders Llc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J2/00Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic
    • B01J2/003Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic followed by coating of the granules
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J13/00Colloid chemistry, e.g. the production of colloidal materials or their solutions, not otherwise provided for; Making microcapsules or microballoons
    • B01J13/02Making microcapsules or microballoons
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J19/00Chemical, physical or physico-chemical processes in general; Their relevant apparatus
    • B01J19/08Processes employing the direct application of electric or wave energy, or particle radiation; Apparatus therefor
    • B01J19/10Processes employing the direct application of electric or wave energy, or particle radiation; Apparatus therefor employing sonic or ultrasonic vibrations
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J19/00Chemical, physical or physico-chemical processes in general; Their relevant apparatus
    • B01J19/24Stationary reactors without moving elements inside
    • B01J19/2405Stationary reactors without moving elements inside provoking a turbulent flow of the reactants, such as in cyclones, or having a high Reynolds-number
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J2/00Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic
    • B01J2/006Coating of the granules without description of the process or the device by which the granules are obtained
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J2/00Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic
    • B01J2/02Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic by dividing the liquid material into drops, e.g. by spraying, and solidifying the drops
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01JCHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL PROCESSES, e.g. CATALYSIS OR COLLOID CHEMISTRY; THEIR RELEVANT APPARATUS
    • B01J2/00Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic
    • B01J2/02Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic by dividing the liquid material into drops, e.g. by spraying, and solidifying the drops
    • B01J2/04Processes or devices for granulating materials, e.g. fertilisers in general; Rendering particulate materials free flowing in general, e.g. making them hydrophobic by dividing the liquid material into drops, e.g. by spraying, and solidifying the drops in a gaseous medium
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B22CASTING; POWDER METALLURGY
    • B22FWORKING METALLIC POWDER; MANUFACTURE OF ARTICLES FROM METALLIC POWDER; MAKING METALLIC POWDER
    • B22F1/00Special treatment of metallic powder, e.g. to facilitate working, to improve properties; Metallic powders per se, e.g. mixtures of particles of different composition
    • B22F1/0003Metallic powders per se; Mixtures of metallic powders; Metallic powders mixed with a lubricating or binding agent
    • B22F1/0007Metallic powder characterised by its shape or structure, e.g. fibre structure
    • B22F1/0011Metallic powder characterised by size or surface area only
    • B22F1/0018Nanometer sized particles
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    • B22FWORKING METALLIC POWDER; MANUFACTURE OF ARTICLES FROM METALLIC POWDER; MAKING METALLIC POWDER
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    • B22F1/02Special treatment of metallic powder, e.g. to facilitate working, to improve properties; Metallic powders per se, e.g. mixtures of particles of different composition comprising coating of the powder
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B22CASTING; POWDER METALLURGY
    • B22FWORKING METALLIC POWDER; MANUFACTURE OF ARTICLES FROM METALLIC POWDER; MAKING METALLIC POWDER
    • B22F1/00Special treatment of metallic powder, e.g. to facilitate working, to improve properties; Metallic powders per se, e.g. mixtures of particles of different composition
    • B22F1/02Special treatment of metallic powder, e.g. to facilitate working, to improve properties; Metallic powders per se, e.g. mixtures of particles of different composition comprising coating of the powder
    • B22F1/025Metallic coating
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • B22FWORKING METALLIC POWDER; MANUFACTURE OF ARTICLES FROM METALLIC POWDER; MAKING METALLIC POWDER
    • B22F9/00Making metallic powder or suspensions thereof
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    • B22F9/30Making metallic powder or suspensions thereof using chemical processes with decomposition of metal compounds, e.g. by pyrolysis
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B24GRINDING; POLISHING
    • B24BMACHINES, DEVICES, OR PROCESSES FOR GRINDING OR POLISHING; DRESSING OR CONDITIONING OF ABRADING SURFACES; FEEDING OF GRINDING, POLISHING, OR LAPPING AGENTS
    • B24B37/00Lapping machines or devices; Accessories
    • B24B37/04Lapping machines or devices; Accessories designed for working plane surfaces
    • B24B37/042Lapping machines or devices; Accessories designed for working plane surfaces operating processes therefor
    • B24B37/044Lapping machines or devices; Accessories designed for working plane surfaces operating processes therefor characterised by the composition of the lapping agent
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • B82Y30/00Nanotechnology for materials or surface science, e.g. nanocomposites
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    • C01B13/14Methods for preparing oxides or hydroxides in general
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    • H01L2924/00Indexing scheme for arrangements or methods for connecting or disconnecting semiconductor or solid-state bodies as covered by H01L24/00
    • H01L2924/0001Technical content checked by a classifier
    • H01L2924/0002Not covered by any one of groups H01L24/00, H01L24/00 and H01L2224/00
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
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    • H01L2924/00Indexing scheme for arrangements or methods for connecting or disconnecting semiconductor or solid-state bodies as covered by H01L24/00
    • H01L2924/095Indexing scheme for arrangements or methods for connecting or disconnecting semiconductor or solid-state bodies as covered by H01L24/00 with a principal constituent of the material being a combination of two or more materials provided in the groups H01L2924/013 - H01L2924/0715
    • H01L2924/097Glass-ceramics, e.g. devitrified glass
    • H01L2924/09701Low temperature co-fired ceramic [LTCC]
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y10TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC
    • Y10TTECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER US CLASSIFICATION
    • Y10T428/00Stock material or miscellaneous articles
    • Y10T428/12All metal or with adjacent metals
    • Y10T428/12007Component of composite having metal continuous phase interengaged with nonmetal continuous phase
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y10TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC
    • Y10TTECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER US CLASSIFICATION
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    • Y10T428/12All metal or with adjacent metals
    • Y10T428/12014All metal or with adjacent metals having metal particles
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y10TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC
    • Y10TTECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER US CLASSIFICATION
    • Y10T428/00Stock material or miscellaneous articles
    • Y10T428/12All metal or with adjacent metals
    • Y10T428/12014All metal or with adjacent metals having metal particles
    • Y10T428/12028Composite; i.e., plural, adjacent, spatially distinct metal components [e.g., layers, etc.]
    • Y10T428/12049Nonmetal component
    • Y10T428/12056Entirely inorganic
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y10TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC
    • Y10TTECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER US CLASSIFICATION
    • Y10T428/00Stock material or miscellaneous articles
    • Y10T428/12All metal or with adjacent metals
    • Y10T428/12014All metal or with adjacent metals having metal particles
    • Y10T428/1216Continuous interengaged phases of plural metals, or oriented fiber containing
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
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    • Y10T428/12All metal or with adjacent metals
    • Y10T428/12181Composite powder [e.g., coated, etc.]
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    • Y10T428/00Stock material or miscellaneous articles
    • Y10T428/25Web or sheet containing structurally defined element or component and including a second component containing structurally defined particles
    • Y10T428/256Heavy metal or aluminum or compound thereof
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    • Y10T428/00Stock material or miscellaneous articles
    • Y10T428/29Coated or structually defined flake, particle, cell, strand, strand portion, rod, filament, macroscopic fiber or mass thereof
    • Y10T428/2982Particulate matter [e.g., sphere, flake, etc.]
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
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    • Y10T428/29Coated or structually defined flake, particle, cell, strand, strand portion, rod, filament, macroscopic fiber or mass thereof
    • Y10T428/2982Particulate matter [e.g., sphere, flake, etc.]
    • Y10T428/2991Coated

Abstract

Provided is an aerosol method for preparing powdered products of a variety of materials involving generating a flowing aerosol in an aerosol generator (106) and conducting the flowing aerosol through a furnace (110) to heat the flowing aerosol to form particles, with controlled flow of the flowing aerosol through the heater (110). The particles may be cooled in a particle cooler (320) and then collected in a particle collector (114).

Description

AEROSOL METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR MAKING PARTICULATE PRODUCTS

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention involves aerosol production of finely-divided particles of a variety of compositions and particles so produced.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Powdered materials are used in many manufacturing processes. One large use for powders is for thick film deposition to prep-are films of a variety of materials. Some thick film applications include, for example, deposition of phosphor materials for flat panel displays, and patterning of eclectically conductive features for electronic products.

For thick film applications, and for other applications, there is a trend to use powders of ever smaller particles. Generally desirable features in small particles include a small particle size; a narrow particle size distribution; a dense, spherical particle morphology; and a crystalline grain structure. Existing technologies for preparing powdered products, however, often could be improved with respect to attaining all, or substantially all, of these desired features for particles used in thick film applications. One method that has been used to make small particles is to precipitate the particles from a liquid medium. Such liquid precipitation techniques are often difficult to control to produce particles with the desired characteristics. Also, particles prepared by liquid precipitation routes often .are cont.aminated with significant quantities of surfactants or other organic materials used during the liquid phase processing. Aerosol methods have also been used to make a variety of small particles. One aerosol method for making small particles is spray pyrolysis, in which an aerosol spray is generated and then converted in a reactor to the desired particles. Spray pyrolysis systems have, however, been mostly experimental, and unsuitable for commerci.al p.article production. Furthermore, control of particle size distribution is a concern with spray pyrolysis. Also, spray pyrolysis systems are often inefficient in the use of carrier gases that suspend and carry liquid droplets of the aerosol. Moreover, material losses within the processing equipment are often severe. These inefficiencies pose major problems in attempting to develop spray pyrolysis systems. There is a significant need for improved spray pyrolysis manufacture techniques that are better suited for making high quality powders on a commercial scale.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention provides an aerosol process for manufacturing finely- divided powders involving heating of a flowing aerosol in a furnace to form particles for the powders. The powders may be of a variety of materials having desirable properties and may be produced at commercially acceptable rates. Apparatus is also provided for implementing the manufacturing method. With the present invention it has been found that control of flow and heat characteristics in the furnace and other parts of the process are important to effective processing of a dense aerosol at a high throughput. .An important aspect of the present invention is the ability to process a dense aerosol at a high rate without excessive material losses within the process. The dense aerosol is typically generated by an aerosol generator including a plurality of ultrasonic transducers that underlie and ultrasonically energize a reservoir of precursor fluid. The dense flowing aerosol is then heated in a furnace to produce desired particles. According to one embodiment of the present invention, the flow through the furnace is advantageously maintained at a high Reynolds Number, with the flow being controlled to attain a maximum Reynolds Number in the furnace of typically between about 500 and about 10,000.

According to another aspect of the present invention, the furnace is typically operated with at least an appreciable portion of the front end of the heating zone in the furnace operating in a constant wall heat flux mode of heat transfer. In such a situation, it is important not to subject the flowing aerosol to a wall temperature that is detrimentally high. For example, according to one embodiment of the invention, the wall temperature of the furnace is maintained at a temperature low enough so that no component desired in the final particle composition would exert a vapor pressure of larger than about 200 millitorr, and preferably even lower. The same applies to reaction intermediates that may occur in the furnace in preparation of the final particle composition. The wall temperature should also be maintained at a low enough temperature so that none of these intermediates exerts an excessive vapor pressure. Failure to control the volatility of these materials near the hot wall of the furnace can result in significant losses of material to vaporization, which can ultimately result in condensed material contaminating the final particulate product.

In another aspect, residence times through various portions of the process are controlled and/or certain temperature profiles are maintained in a manner that have been found to limit losses of material to walls of processing equipment. In one embodiment, the residence time between attaining the maximum average stream temperature in the furnace and completion of particle cooling to a temperature suitable for particle collection is controlled to be shorter than about two seconds, and preferably even shorter. This is typically accomplished by some combination of delaying attainment of the maximum temperature in the furnace so that it occurs near the end of the furnace (preferably in the last third of the heating zone in the furnace), maintaining a very short distance between the end of the furnace and the cooling unit, and extremely quick cooling in the cooling unit. Furthermore, having the maximum average stream temperature occur near the end of the furnace reduces the possibility for thermophoretic losses at the back end of the furnace. Also, insulating the conduit between the furnace and the cooling unit helps to keep the conduit walls warm to limit thermophoretic losses to the walls of the conduit. Moreover, the conduit between the furnace and the cooling unit may be heated to maintain an even warmer wall temperature. Other portions of the process equipment may also be heated and/or insulated to further reduce thermophoretic losses.

Also, in one embodiment, the residence time to particle collection is maintained at a very short time. Typically, the residence time throughout the entire process, from the outlet of the aerosol generator to the particle collection is shorter than about 10 second, and preferably even shorter. The short residence time limits losses of droplets to the impingement on walls of flow conduits in the front end of the process and to thermophoretic losses at the back end. Furthermore, in one embodiment, losses at the front end are further reduced by introducing a dry gas into the aerosol stream to pre-dry the aerosol prior to introduction into the furnace. This advantageously addresses problems that could otherwise occur from possible liquid build-up at the inlet to the furnace.

These and other aspects of the invention are discussed in more detail below.

-3- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Fig. 1 is a process block diagram showing one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention.

Fig. 2 is a side view in cross section of one embodiment of an aerosol generator useful with the present invention.

Fig. 3 is a top view of a transducer mounting plate showing a 49 transducer array for use in an aerosol generator with the present invention.

Fig. 4 is a top view of a transducer mounting plate for a 400 transducer array for use in an ultrasonic generator with the present invention. Fig. 5 is a side view of the transducer mounting plate shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 6 is a partial side view showing the profile of a single transducer mounting receptacle of the transducer mounting plate shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 7 is a partial side view in cross-section showing an alternative embodiment for mounting an ultrasonic transducer. Fig. 8 is a top view of a bottom retaining plate for retaining a separator for use in an aerosol generator with the present invention.

Fig. 9 is a top view of a liquid feed box having a bottom retaining plate to assist in retaining a separator for use in an aerosol generator with the present invention. Fig. 10 is a side view of the liquid feed box shown in Fig. 9. Fig. 11 is a side view of a gas tube for delivering gas within an aerosol generator useful with the present invention.

Fig. 12 shows a partial top view of gas tubes positioned in a liquid feed box for distributing gas relative to ultrasonic transducer positions for use in an aerosol generator with the present invention. Fig. 13 shows one embodiment for a gas distribution configuration for an aerosol generator useful with the present invention.

Fig. 14 shows another embodiment for a gas distribution configuration for an aerosol generator useful with the present invention.

Fig. 15 is a top view of one embodiment of a gas distribution plate/gas tube assembly of an aerosol generator useful with the present invention. Fig. 16 is a side view of one embodiment of the gas distribution plate/gas tube assembly shown in Fig. 15.

Fig. 17 shows one embodiment for orienting a transducer in an aerosol generator useful with the present invention. Fig. 18 is a top view of a gas manifold for distributing gas within an aerosol generator useful with the present invention.

Fig. 19 is a side view of the gas manifold shown in Fig. 18.

Fig. 20 is a top view of a generator lid of a hood design for use in an aerosol generator useful with the present invention. Fig. 21 is a side view of the generator lid shown in Fig. 20.

Fig. 22 is a process block diagram of one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention, including an aerosol concentrator.

Fig. 23 is a process block diagram of one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention, including a droplet classifier. Fig. 24 is a process block diagram of one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention, including a particle cooler.

Fig. 25 is a top view of a gas quench cooler useful with the present invention.

Fig. 26 is an end view of the gas quench cooler shown in Fig. 25.

Fig. 27 is a side view of a perforated conduit of the quench cooler shown in Fig. 25.

Fig. 28 is a process block diagram of one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention, including a particle coater.

Fig. 29 is a block diagram of one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention, including a particle modifier. Figs. 30A-F shows cross sections of various particle morphologies of some composite particles manufacturable according to the present invention.

Fig. 31 is a side view of one embodiment of a gas quench cooler connected with a cyclone.

Fig. 32 is a process block diagram of one embodiment of an aerosol process useful with the present invention, including the addition of a dry gas between the aerosol generator and the furnace.

-5- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION In one aspect, the present invention provides a method for preparing a particulate product. A feed of liquid-containing, flowable medium, including at least one precursor for the desired particulate product, is converted to aerosol form, with droplets of the medium being dispersed in and suspended by a carrier gas. Liquid from the droplets in the aerosol is then removed to permit formation in a dispersed state of the desired particles. Typically, the feed precursor is pyrolyzed in a furnace to make the particles. In one embodiment, the particles are subjected, while still in a dispersed state, to compositional or structural modification, if desired. Compositional modification may include, for example, coating the particles. Structural modification may include, for example, crystallization, recrystallization or morphological alteration of the particles. The term powder is often used herein to refer to the particulate product of the present invention. The use of the term powder does not indicate, however, that the particulate product must be dry or in any particular environment. Although the particulate product is typically manufactured in a dry state, the particulate product may, after manufacture, be placed in a wet environment, such as in a slurry.

The process of the present invention is particularly well suited for the production of particulate products of finely divided particles having a primary particle weight average size, for most applications, in a range having a lower limit of about 0.1 micron, preferably about 0.3 micron, more preferably about 0.5 micron and most preferably about 0.8 micron; and having an upper limit of about 4 microns, preferably about 3 microns, more preferably about 2.5 microns and more preferably about 2 microns. A particularly preferred range for many applications is a weight average size of from about 0.5 micron to about 3 microns, and more particularly from about 0.5 micron to about 2 microns. For some applications, however, other weight average particle sizes may be particularly preferred.

In addition to making particles within a desired range of weight average particle size, with the present invention the particles may be produced with a desirably narrow size distribution, thereby providing size uniformity that is desired for many applications. In addition to control over particle size and size distribution, the method of the present invention provides significant flexibility for producing particles of varying composition, crystallinity and morphology. For example, the present invention may be used to produce homogeneous particles involving only a single phase or multi-phase particles including multiple phases. In the case of multi-phase particles, the phases may be present in a variety of morphologies. For example, one phase may be uniformly dispersed throughout a matrix of another phase. Alternatively, one phase may form an interior core while another phase forms a coating that surrounds the core. Other morphologies are also possible, as discussed more fully below. Referring now to Fig. 1 , one embodiment for general operation of the process of the present invention is described. A liquid feed 102, including at least one precursor for the desired particles, and a carrier gas 104 are fed to an aerosol generator 106 where an aerosol 108 is produced. The aerosol 108 is then fed to a furnace 110 where liquid in the aerosol 108 is removed to produce particles 112 that are dispersed in and suspended by gas exiting the furnace 110. The particles 112 are then collected in a particle collector

114 to produce a particulate product 116.

As used herein, the liquid feed 102 is a feed that includes one or more flowable liquids as the major constituent(s), such that the feed is a flowable medium. The liquid feed 102 need not comprise only liquid constituents. The liquid feed 102 may comprise only constituents in one or more liquid phase, or it may also include particulate material suspended in a liquid phase. The liquid feed 102 must, however, be capable of being atomized to form droplets of sufficiently small size for preparation of the aerosol 108. Therefore, if the liquid feed 102 includes suspended particles, those particles should be relatively small in relation to the size of droplets in the aerosol 108. Such suspended particles should typically be smaller than about 1 micron in size, preferably smaller than about 0.5 micron in size, and more preferably smaller than about 0.3 micron in size and most preferably smaller than about 0.1 micron in size. Most preferably, the suspended particles should be able to form a colloid. The suspended particles could be finely divided particles, or could be agglomerate masses comprised of agglomerated smaller primary particles. For example, 0.5 micron particles could be agglomerates of nanometer-sized primary particles. When the liquid feed 102 includes suspended particles, the particles typically comprise no greater than about 25 to 50 weight percent of the liquid feed.

As noted, the liquid feed 102 includes at least one precursor for preparation of the particles 112. The precursor may be a substance in either a liquid or solid phase of the liquid feed 102. Frequently, the precursor will be a material, such as a salt, dissolved in a liquid solvent of the liquid feed 102. Typical precursor salts include nitrate, chloride, sulfate, acetate and oxalate salts, and the like. The precursor may undergo one or more chemical reactions in the furnace 110 to assist in production of the particles 112. Alternatively, the precursor material may contribute to formation of the particles 112 without undergoing chemical reaction. This could be the case, for example, when the liquid feed 102 includes, as a precursor material, suspended particles that are not chemically modified in the furnace 110. In any event, the particles 112 comprise at least one component originally contributed by the precursor.

The liquid feed 102 may include multiple precursor materials, which may be present together in a single phase or separately in multiple phases. For example, the liquid feed 102 may include multiple precursors in solution in a single liquid vehicle. Alternatively, one precursor material could be in a solid particulate phase and a second precursor material could be in a liquid phase. Also, one precursor material could be in one liquid phase and a second precursor material could be in a second liquid phase, such as could be the case when the liquid feed 102 comprises an emulsion. Different components contributed by different precursors may be present in the particles together in a single material phase, or the different components may be present in different material phases when the particles 112 are composites of multiple phases.

When the liquid feed 102 includes a soluble precursor, the precursor solution should be unsaturated to avoid the formation of precipitates. Solutions of salts will typically be used in concentrations in a range to provide a solution including from about 1 to about 50 weight percent solute. Most often, the liquid feed will include a solution with from about 5 weight percent to about 40 weight percent solute, and more preferably to about 30 weight percent solute. Preferably the solvent is aqueous-based for ease of operation, although other solvents, such as toluene or other organic solvents, may be desirable for specific materials. The use of organic solvents, however, can sometimes lead to undesirable carbon contamination in the particles. The pH of the aqueous-based solutions can be adjusted to alter the solubility characteristics of the precursor or precursors in the solution.

The carrier gas 104 may comprise any gaseous medium in which droplets produced from the liquid feed 102 may be dispersed in aerosol form. Also, the carrier gas 104 may be inert, in that the carrier gas 104 does not participate in formation of the particles 112. Alternatively, the carrier gas may have one or more active component(s) that contribute to formation of the particles 112. In that regard, the carrier gas may include one or more reactive components that react in the furnace 110 to contribute to formation of the particles 112.

The aerosol generator 106 atomizes the liquid feed 102 to form droplets in a manner to permit the carrier gas 104 to sweep the droplets away to form the aerosol 108. The droplets comprise liquid from the liquid feed 102. The droplets may, however, also include nonliquid material, such as one or more small particles held in the droplet by the liquid. For example, when the particles 112 are composite, or multi-phase, particles, one phase of the composite may be provided in the liquid feed 102 in the form of suspended precursor particles and a second phase of the composite may be produced in the furnace 110 from one or more precursors in the liquid phase of the liquid feed 102. Furthermore the precursor particles could be included in the liquid feed 102, and therefore also in droplets of the aerosol 108, for the purpose only of dispersing the particles for subsequent compositional or structural modification during or after processing in the furnace 110.

An important aspect of the aerosol process shown in Fig. 1 is generation of the aerosol 108 with droplets of a small average size, narrow size distribution. In this manner, the particles 112 may be produced at a desired small size with a narrow size distribution, which are advantageous for many applications.

The aerosol generator 106 is capable of producing the aerosol 108 such that it includes droplets having a weight average size in a range having a lower limit of about 1 micron and preferably about 2 microns; and an upper limit of about 10 microns, preferably about 7 microns, more preferably about 5 microns and most preferably about 4 microns. A weight average droplet size in a range of from about 2 microns to about 4 microns is more preferred for most applications, with a weight average droplet size of about 3 microns being particularly preferred for some applications. The aerosol generator is also capable of producing the aerosol 108 such that it includes droplets in a narrow size distribution. Preferably, the droplets in the aerosol are such that at least about 70 percent (more preferably at least about 80 weight percent and most preferably at least about 85 weight percent) of the droplets are smaller than about 10 microns and more preferably at least about 70 weight percent (more preferably at least about 80 weight percent and most preferably at least about 85 weight percent) are smaller than about 5 microns. Furthermore, preferably no greater than about 30 weight percent, more preferably no greater than about 25 weight percent and most preferably no greater than about 20 weight percent, of the droplets in the aerosol 108 are larger than about twice the weight average droplet size.

Furthermore, it is preferred that the aerosol 108 be generated by the aerosol generator 106 without consuming excessive amounts of the carrier gas 104. This generally requires that the aerosol generator 106 produce the aerosol 108 such that it has a high loading, or high concentration, of the liquid feed 102 in droplet form. In that regard, the aerosol 108 preferably includes greater than about 1 x 106 droplets per cubic centimeter of the aerosol 108, more preferably greater than about 5 x 106 droplets per cubic centimeter, still more preferably greater than about 1 x 107 droplets per cubic centimeter, and most preferably greater than about 5 x 107 droplets per cubic centimeter. That the aerosol generator 106 can produce such a heavily loaded aerosol 108 is particularly surprising considering the high quality of the aerosol 108 with respect to small average droplet size and narrow droplet size distribution. Typically, droplet loading in the aerosol is such that the volumetric ratio of liquid feed 102 to carrier gas 104 in the aerosol 108 is larger than about 0.04 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104 in the aerosol 108, preferably larger than about 0.083 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104 in the aerosol 108, more preferably larger than about 0.167 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, still more preferably larger than about 0.25 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, and most preferably larger than about 0.333 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104. This capability of the aerosol generator 106 to produce a heavily loaded aerosol

108 is even more surprising given the high droplet output rate of which the aerosol

-10- generator 106 is capable, as discussed more fully below. It will be appreciated that the concentration of liquid feed 102 in the aerosol 108 will depend upon the specific components and attributes of the liquid feed 102 and, particularly, the size of the droplets in the aerosol 108. For example, when the average droplet size is from about 2 microns to about 4 microns, the droplet loading is preferably larger than about 0.15 milliliters of aerosol feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, more preferably larger than about 0.2 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, even more preferably larger than about 0.2 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, and most preferably larger than about 0.3 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104. When reference is made herein to liters of carrier gas 104, it refers to the volume that the carrier gas 104 would occupy under conditions of standard temperature and pressure.

An important aspect of the present invention is operation of the furnace and control of the aerosol as it flows through the furnace. The furnace 110 may be any suitable device for heating the aerosol 108 to evaporate liquid from the droplets of the aerosol 108 and thereby permit formation of the particles 112. For most applications, maximum average stream temperatures in the furnace 110 will generally be in a range of from about 500°C to about 1500 °C, and preferably in the range of from about 900°C to about 1300°C. The maximum average stream temperature refers to the maximum average temperature that an aerosol stream attains while flowing through the furnace. This is typically determined by a temperature probe inserted into the furnace.

With the present invention, residence time in the heating zone of the furnace 110 should typically be shorter than about 4 seconds, with shorter than about 2 seconds being preferred, shorter than about 1 second being more preferred, shorter than about 0.5 second being even more preferred, and shorter than about 0.2 second being most preferred. Shorter residence times are generally preferred for higher throughput, but operating at these higher throughputs requires careful operation. Furthermore, the residence time should be long enough to assure that the particles 112 attain the desired maximum average stream temperature for a given heat transfer rate. In that regard, with extremely short residence times, higher furnace temperatures could be used to increase the rate of heat transfer so long as the particles 112 attain a maximum temperature within the desired stream temperature range. That mode of operation, however, is not preferred,

-11- as will become apparent from further discussion provided below. Also, it is preferred that, in most cases, the maximum average stream temperature not be attained in the furnace 110 until substantially at the end of the heating zone in the furnace 110. For example, the heating zone will often include a plurality of heating sections that are each independently controllable. The maximum average stream temperature should typically not be attained until the final heating section, and more preferably until substantially at the end of the last heating section. This is important to reduce the potential for thermophoretic losses of material. Also, it is noted that as used herein, residence time refers to the actual time for a material to pass through the relevant process equipment. In the case of the furnace, this includes the effect of increasing velocity with gas expansion due to heating.

Typically, the furnace 110 will be a tube-shaped furnace, so that the aerosol 108 moving into and through the furnace does not encounter sharp edges on which droplets could collect. Loss of droplets to collection at sharp surfaces results in a lower yield of particles 112. More important, however, the accumulation of liquid at sharp edges can result in re-release of undesirably large droplets back into the aerosol 108, which can cause contamination of the particulate product 116 with undesirably large particles. Also, over time, such liquid collection at sharp surfaces can cause fouling of process equipment, impairing process performance. The furnace 110 may include a heating tube made of any suitable material. The tube material may be a ceramic material, for example, mullite, silica or alumina. Alternatively, the tube may be metallic. Advantages of using a metallic tube .are low cost, ability to withstand steep temperature gradients and large thermal shocks, machinability and weldability, and ease of providing a seal between the tube .and other process equipment. Disadvantages of using a metallic tube include limited operating temperature and increased reactivity in some reaction systems.

When a metallic tube is used in the furnace 110, it is preferably a high nickel content stainless steel alloy, such as a 330 stainless steel, or a nickel-based super alloy. As noted, one of the major advantages of using a metallic tube is that the tube is relatively easy to seal with other process equipment. In that regard, flange fittings may be welded directly to the tube for connecting with other process equipment. Metallic tubes -are

■12- generally preferred for making particles that do not require a maximum tube wall temperature of higher than about 1100°C during particle manufacture.

The particle collector 114, may be any suitable apparatus for collecting particles 112 to produce the particulate product 116. One preferred embodiment of the particle collector 114 uses one or more filter to separate the particles 112 from gas. Such a filter may be of any type, including a bag filter. Another preferred embodiment of the particle collector uses one or more cyclone to separate the particles 1 12. Other apparatus that may be used in the particle collector 1 14 includes an electrostatic precipitator. Also, collection should normally occur at a temperature above the condensation temperature of the gas stream in which the particles 112 are suspended. Also, collection should normally be at a temperature that is low enough to prevent significant agglomeration of the particles 1 12.

The process and apparatus of the present invention are well-suited for producing commercial-size batches of extremely high quality particles. In that regard, the process and the accompanying apparatus provide versatility for preparing powder including a wide variety of materials, and easily accommodate shifting of production between different specialty batches of particles.

As noted previously, the aerosol generator 106 should be capable of producing a high quality aerosol with high droplet loading. With reference to Fig. 2, one embodiment of an aerosol generator 106 that may be advantageously used with the present invention is described. The aerosol generator 106 includes a plurality of ultrasonic transducer discs 120 that are each mounted in a transducer housing 122. The transducer housings 122 are mounted to a transducer mounting plate 124, creating an array of the ultrasonic transducer discs 120. Any convenient spacing may be used for the ultrasonic transducer discs 120. Center-to-center spacing of the ultrasonic transducer discs 120 of about 4 centimeters is often adequate. The aerosol generator 106, as shown in Fig. 2, includes forty-nine transducers in a 7 x 7 array. The array configuration is as shown in Fig. 3, which depicts the locations of the transducer housings 122 mounted to the transducer mounting plate 124. With continued reference to Fig. 2, a separator 126, in spaced relation to the transducer discs 120, is retained between a bottom retaining plate 128 and a top retaining

13- plate 130. Gas delivery tubes 132 are connected to gas distribution manifolds 134, which have gas delivery ports 136. The gas distribution manifolds 134 are housed within a generator body 138 that is covered by generator lid 140. A transducer driver 144, having circuitry for driving the transducer discs 120, is electronically connected with the transducer discs 120 via electrical cables 146.

During operation of the aerosol generator 106, as shown in Fig. 2, the transducer discs 120 are activated by the transducer driver 144 via the electrical cables 146. The transducers preferably vibrate at a frequency of from about 1 MHz to about 5 MHz, more preferably from about 1.5 MHz to about 3 MHz. Frequently used frequencies are at about 1.6 MHz and about 2.4 MHz. Furthermore, all of the transducer discs 110 should be operating at substantially the same frequency when an aerosol with a narrow droplet size distribution is desired. This is important because commercially available transducers can vary significantly in thickness, sometimes by as much as 10%. It is preferred, however, that the transducer discs 120 operate at frequencies within a range of 5% above and below the median transducer frequency, more preferably within a range of 2.5%, and most preferably within a range of 1%. This can be accomplished by careful selection of the transducer discs 120 so that they all preferably have thicknesses within 5% of the median transducer thickness, more preferably within 2.5%, and most preferably within 1%. Liquid feed 102 enters through a feed inlet 148 and flows through flow channels

150 to exit through feed outlet 152. An ultrasonically transmissive fluid, typically water, enters through a water inlet 154 to fill a water bath volume 156 and flow through flow channels 158 to exit through a water outlet 160. A proper flow rate of the ultrasonically transmissive fluid is necessary to cool the transducer discs 120 and to prevent overheating of the ultrasonically transmissive fluid. Ultrasonic signals from the transducer discs 120 are transmitted, via the ultrasonically transmissive fluid, across the water bath volume

156, and ultimately across the separator 126, to the liquid feed 102 in flow ch-annels 150.

The ultr.asonic signals from the ultrasonic transducer discs 120 cause atomization cones 162 to develop in the liquid feed 102 at locations corresponding with the transducer discs 120. Carrier gas 104 is introduced into the gas delivery tubes 132 and delivered to the vicinity of the atomization cones 162 via gas delivery ports 136. Jets of carrier gas

■14- exit the gas delivery ports 136 in a direction so as to impinge on the atomization cones 162, thereby sweeping away atomized droplets of the liquid feed 102 that are being generated from the atomization cones 162 and creating the aerosol 108, which exits the aerosol generator 106 through an aerosol exit opening 164. Efficient use of the carrier gas 104 is an important aspect of the aerosol generator

106. The embodiment of the aerosol generator 106 shown in Fig. 2 includes two gas exit ports per atomization cone 162, with the gas ports being positioned above the liquid medium 102 over troughs that develop between the atomization cones 162, such that the exiting carrier gas 104 is horizontally directed at the surface of the atomization cones 162, thereby efficiently distributing the carrier gas 104 to critical portions of the liquid feed 102 for effective and efficient sweeping away of droplets as they form about the ultrasonically energized atomization cones 162. Furthermore, it is preferred that at least a portion of the opening of each of the gas delivery ports 136, through which the carrier gas exits the gas delivery tubes, should be located below the top of the atomization cones 162 at which the carrier gas 104 is directed. This relative placement of the gas delivery ports 136 is very important to efficient use of carrier gas 104. Orientation of the gas delivery ports 136 is also important. Preferably, the gas delivery ports 136 are positioned to horizontally direct jets of the carrier gas 104 at the atomization cones 162. The aerosol generator 106 permits generation of the aerosol 108 with heavy loading with droplets of the carrier liquid 102, unlike aerosol generator designs that do not efficiently focus gas delivery to the locations of droplet formation.

Another important feature of the aerosol generator 106, as shown in Fig. 2, is the use of the separator 126, which protects the transducer discs 120 from direct contact with the liquid feed 102, which is often highly corrosive. The height of the separator 126 above the top of the transducer discs 120 should normally be kept as small as possible, and is often in the range of from about 1 centimeter to about 2 centimeters. The top of the liquid feed 102 in the flow channels above the tops of the ultrasonic transducer discs 120 is typically in a range of from about 2 centimeters to about 5 centimeters, whether or not the aerosol generator includes the separator 126, with a distance of about 3 to 4 centimeters being preferred. Although the aerosol generator 106 could be made without the separator 126, in which case the liquid feed 102 would be in direct contact with the

15- transducer discs 120, the highly corrosive nature of the liquid feed 102 can often cause premature failure of the transducer discs 120. The use of the separator 126, in combination with use of the ultrasonically transmissive fluid in the water bath volume 156 to provide ultrasonic coupling, significantly extending the life of the ultrasonic transducers 120. One disadvantage of using the separator 126, however, is that the rate of droplet production from the atomization cones 162 is reduced, often by a factor of two or more, relative to designs in which the liquid feed 102 is in direct contact with the ultrasonic transducer discs 102. Even with the separator 126, however, the aerosol generator 106 used with the present invention is capable of producing a high quality aerosol with heavy droplet loading, as previously discussed. Suitable materials for the separator 126 include, for example, polyamides (such as Kapton™ membranes from DuPont) and other polymer materials, glass, and plexiglass. The main requirements for the separator 126 are that it be ultrasonically transmissive, corrosion resistant and impermeable. One alternative to using the separator 126 is to bind a corrosion-resistant protective coating onto the surface of the ultrasonic transducer discs 120, thereby preventing the liquid feed 102 from contacting the surface of the ultrasonic transducer discs 120. When the ultrasonic transducer discs 120 have a protective coating, the aerosol generator 106 will typically be constructed without the water bath volume 156 and the liquid feed 102 will flow directly over the ultrasonic transducer discs 120.

Examples of such protective coating materials include platinum, gold, TEFLON™, epoxies and various plastics. Such coating typically significantly extends transducer life. Also, when operating without the separator 126, the aerosol generator 106 will typically produce the aerosol 108 with a much higher droplet loading than when the separator 126 is used.

One surprising finding with operation of the aerosol generator 106 of the present invention is that the droplet loading in the aerosol may be affected by the temperature of the liquid feed 102. It has been found that when the liquid feed 102 includes an aqueous liquid at an elevated temperature, the droplet loading increases significantly. The temperature of the liquid feed 102 is preferably higher than about 30°C, more preferably higher than about 35 °C and most preferably higher than about 40 °C. If the temperature

-16- becomes too high, however, it can have a detrimental effect on droplet loading in the aerosol 108. Therefore, the temperature of the liquid feed 102 from which the aerosol 108 is made should generally be lower than about 50°C, and preferably lower than about 45 °C. The liquid feed 102 may be maintained at the desired temperature in any suitable fashion. For example, the portion of the aerosol generator 106 where the liquid feed 102 is converted to the aerosol 108 could be maintained at a constant elevated temperature. Alternatively, the liquid feed 102 could be delivered to the aerosol generator 106 from a constant temperature bath maintained separate from the aerosol generator 106. When the ultrasonic generator 106 includes the separator 126, the ultrasonically transmissive fluid adjacent the ultrasonic transducer disks 120 are preferably also at an elevated temperature in the ranges just discussed for the liquid feed 102.

The design for the aerosol generator 106 based on an array of ultrasonic transducers is versatile and is easily modified to accommodate different generator sizes for different specialty applications. The aerosol generator 106 may be designed to include a plurality of ultrasonic transducers in any convenient number. Even for smaller scale production, however, the aerosol generator 106 preferably has at least nine ultrasonic transducers, more preferably at least 16 ultrasonic transducers, and even more preferably at least 25 ultrasonic transducers. For larger scale production, however, the aerosol generator 106 includes at least 40 ultrasonic transducers, more preferably at least 100 ultrasonic transducers, and even more preferably at least 400 ultrasonic transducers.

In some large volume applications, the aerosol generator may have at least 1000 ultrasonic transducers.

Figs. 4-21 show component designs for an aerosol generator 106 including an array of 400 ultrasonic transducers. Referring first to Figs. 4 and 5, the transducer mounting plate 124 is shown with a design to accommodate an array of 400 ultrasonic transducers, arranged in four subarrays of 100 ultrasonic transducers each. The transducer mounting plate 124 has integral vertical walls 172 for containing the ultrasonically transmissive fluid, typically water, in a water bath similar to the water bath volume 156 described previously with reference to Fig. 2. As shown in Figs. 4 and 5, four hundred transducer mounting receptacles 174 are provided in the transducer mounting plate 124 for mounting ultrasonic transducers for the

-17- desired array. With reference to Fig. 6, the profile of an individual transducer mounting receptacle 174 is shown. A mounting seat 176 accepts an ultrasonic transducer for mounting, with a mounted ultrasonic transducer being held in place via screw holes 178. Opposite the mounting receptacle 176 is a flared opening 180 through which an ultrasonic signal may be transmitted for the purpose of generating the aerosol 108, as previously described with reference to Fig. 2.

Another transducer mounting configuration is shown in Fig. 7 for -another configuration for the transducer mounting plate 124. As seen in Fig. 7, an ultrasonic transducer disc 120 is mounted to the transducer mounting plate 124 by use of a compression screw 177 threaded into a threaded receptacle 179. The compression screw

177 bears against the ultrasonic transducer disc 120, causing an o-ring 181, situated in an o-ring seat 182 on the transducer mounting plate, to be compressed to form a seal between the transducer mounting plate 124 and the ultrasonic transducer disc 120. This type of transducer mounting is preferred when the ultrasonic transducer disc 120 includes a protective surface coating, as discussed previously, because the seal of the o-ring to the ultrasonic transducer disc 120 will be inside of the outer edge of the protective seal, thereby preventing liquid from penetrating under the protective surface coating from the edges of the ultrasonic transducer disc 120.

Referring now to Fig. 8, the bottom retaining plate 128 for a 400 transducer array is shown having a design for mating with the transducer mounting plate 124 (shown in

Figs. 4-5). The bottom retaining plate 128 has eighty openings 184, arranged in four subgroups 186 of twenty openings 184 each. Each of the openings 184 corresponds with five of the transducer mounting receptacles 174 (shown in Figs.4 and 5) when the bottom retaining plate 128 is mated with the transducer mounting plate 124 to create a volume for a water bath between the transducer mounting plate 124 and the bottom retaining plate 128. The openings 184, therefore, provide a pathway for ultrasonic signals generated by ultrasonic transducers to be transmitted through the bottom retaining plate.

Referring now to Figs. 9 and 10, a liquid feed box 190 for a 400 transducer array is shown having the top retaining plate 130 designed to fit over the bottom retaining plate 128 (shown in Fig. 8), with a separator 126 (not shown) being retained between the bottom ret ning plate 128 and the top retaining plate 130 when the aerosol generator 106

•18- is assembled. The liquid feed box 190 also includes vertically extending walls 192 for containing the liquid feed 102 when the aerosol generator is in operation. Also shown in Figs. 9 and 10 is the feed inlet 148 and the feed outlet 152. An adjustable weir 198 determines the level of liquid feed 102 in the liquid feed box 190 during operation of the aerosol generator 106.

The top retaining plate 130 of the liquid feed box 190 has eighty openings 194 therethrough, which are arranged in four subgroups 196 of twenty openings 194 each. The openings 194 of the top retaining plate 130 correspond in size with the openings 184 of the bottom retaining plate 128 (shown in Fig. 8). When the aerosol generator 106 is assembled, the openings 194 through the top retaining plate 130 and the openings 184 through the bottom retaining plate 128 are aligned, with the separator 126 positioned therebetween, to permit transmission of ultrasonic signals when the aerosol generator 106 is in operation.

Referring now to Figs. 9-11 , a plurality of gas tube feed-through holes 202 extend through the vertically extending walls 192 to either side of the assembly including the feed inlet 148 and feed outlet 152 of the liquid feed box 190. The gas tube feed-through holes 202 .are designed to permit insertion therethrough of gas tubes 208 of a design as shown in Fig. 11. When the aerosol generator 106 is assembled, a gas tube 208 is inserted through each of the gas tube feed-through holes 202 so that gas delivery ports 136 in the gas tube 208 will be properly positioned and aligned adjacent the openings 194 in the top retaining plate 130 for delivery of gas to atomization cones that develop in the liquid feed box 190 during operation of the aerosol generator 106. The gas delivery ports 136 are typically holes having a diameter of from about 1.5 millimeters to about 3.5 millimeters. Referring now to Fig. 12, a partial view of the liquid feed box 190 is shown with gas tubes 208 A, 208B .and 208C positioned adjacent to the openings 194 through the top retaining plate 130. Also shown in Fig. 12 are the relative locations that ultrasonic transducer discs 120 would occupy when the aerosol generator 106 is assembled. As seen in Fig. 12, the gas tube 208 A, which is at the edge of the array, has five gas delivery ports 136. Each of the gas delivery ports 136 is positioned to divert carrier gas 104 to a different one of atomization cones that develop over the array of ultrasonic transducer

■19- discs 120 when the aerosol generator 106 is operating. The gas tube 208B, which is one row in from the edge of the array, is a shorter tube that has ten gas delivery ports 136, five each on opposing sides of the gas tube 208B. The gas tube 208B, therefore, has gas delivery ports 136 for delivering gas to atomization cones corresponding with each often ultrasonic transducer discs 120. The third gas tube, 208C, is a longer tube that also has ten gas delivery ports 136 for delivering gas to atomization cones corresponding with ten ultrasonic transducer discs 120. The design shown in Fig. 12, therefore, includes one gas delivery port per ultrasonic transducer disc 120. Although this is a lower density of gas delivery ports 136 than for the embodiment of the aerosol generator 106 shown in Fig. 2, which includes two gas delivery ports per ultrasonic transducer disc 120, the design shown in Fig. 12 is, nevertheless, capable of producing a dense, high-quality aerosol without unnecessary waste of gas.

Referring now to Fig. 13, the flow of carrier gas 104 relative to atomization cones 162 during operation of the aerosol generator 106 having a gas distribution configuration to deliver carrier gas 104 from gas delivery ports on both sides of the gas tubes 208, as was shown for the gas tubes 208A, 208B .and 208C in the gas distribution configuration shown in Fig. 11. The carrier gas 104 sweeps both directions from each of the gas tubes 208.

An alternative, and preferred, flow for carrier gas 104 is shown in Fig. 14. As shown in Fig. 14, carrier gas 104 is delivered from only one side of each of the gas tubes

208. This results in a sweep of carrier gas from all of the gas tubes 208 toward a central area 212. This results in a more uniform flow pattern for aerosol generation that may significantly enhance the efficiency with which the carrier gas 104 is used to produce an aerosol. The aerosol that is generated, therefore, tends to be more heavily loaded with liquid droplets.

.Another configuration for distributing carrier gas in the aerosol generator 106 is shown in Figs. 15 and 16. In this configuration, the gas tubes 208 are hung from a gas distribution plate 216 adjacent gas flow holes 218 through the gas distribution plate 216. In the aerosol generator 106, the gas distribution plate 216 would be mounted above the liquid feed, with the gas flow holes positioned to each correspond with an underlying ultrasonic transducer. Referring specifically to Fig. 16, when the ultrasonic generator 106

-20- is in operation, atomization cones 162 develop through the gas flow holes 218, and the gas tubes 208 are located such that carrier gas 104 exiting from ports in the gas tubes 208 impinge on the atomization cones and flow upward through the gas flow holes. The gas flow holes 218, therefore, act to assist in efficiently distributing the carrier gas 104 about the atomization cones 162 for aerosol formation. It should be appreciated that the gas distribution plates 218 can be made to accommodate any number of the gas tubes 208 and gas flow holes 218. For convenience of illustration, the embodiment shown in Figs. 15 and 16 shows a design having only two of the gas tubes 208 and only 16 of the gas flow holes 218. Also, it should be appreciated that the gas distribution plate 216 could be used alone, without the gas tubes 208. In that case, a slight positive pressure of carrier gas 104 would be maintained under the gas distribution plate 216 and the gas flow holes 218 would be sized to maintain the proper velocity of carrier gas 104 through the gas flow holes 218 for efficient aerosol generation. Because of the relative complexity of operating in that mode, however, it is not preferred. Aerosol generation may also be enhanced through mounting of ultrasonic transducers at a slight angle and directing the carrier gas at resulting atomization cones such that the atomization cones are tilting in the same direction as the direction of flow of carrier gas. Referring to Fig. 17, an ultrasonic transducer disc 120 is shown. The ultrasonic transducer disc 120 is tilted at a tilt angle 114 (typically less than 10 degrees), so that the atomization cone 162 will also have a tilt. It is preferred that the direction of flow of the carrier gas 104 directed at the atomization cone 162 is in the same direction as the tilt of the atomization cone 162.

Referring now to Figs. 18 and 19, a gas manifold 220 is shown for distributing gas to the gas tubes 208 in a 400 transducer array design. The gas manifold 220 includes a gas distribution box 222 and piping stubs 224 for connection with gas tubes 208 (shown in Fig. 11). Inside the gas distribution box 222 are two gas distribution plates 226 that form a flow path to assist in distributing the gas equally throughout the gas distribution box 222, to promote substantially equal delivery of gas through the piping stubs 224. The gas manifold 220, as shown in Figs. 18 and 19, is designed to feed eleven gas tubes 208. For the 400 transducer design, a total of four gas manifolds 220 are required.

-21- Referring now to Figs 20 and 21, the generator lid 140 is shown for a 400 transducer array design. The generator lid 140 mates with and covers the liquid feed box 190 (shown in Figs. 9 and 10). The generator lid 140, as shown in Figs. 20 and 21, has a hood design to permit easy collection of the aerosol 108 without subjecting droplets in the aerosol 108 to sharp edges on which droplets may coalesce and be lost, and possibly interfere with the proper operation of the aerosol generator 106. When the aerosol generator 106 is in operation, the aerosol 108 would be withdrawn via the aerosol exit opening 164 through the generator cover 140.

Although the aerosol generator 106 should produce a high quality aerosol 108 having a high droplet loading, it is often desirable to further concentrate the aerosol 108 prior to introduction into the furnace 110. Referring now to Fig. 22, a process flow diagram is shown including concentration of the aerosol 108. As shown in Fig. 22, the aerosol 108 from the aerosol generator 106 is sent to an aerosol concentrator 236 where excess carrier gas 238 is withdrawn from the aerosol 108 to produce a concentrated aerosol 240, which is then fed to the furnace 110.

The aerosol concentrator 236 typically includes one or more virtual impactors capable of concentrating droplets in the aerosol 108 by a factor of greater than about 2, preferably by a factor of greater than about 5, and more preferably by a factor of greater than about 10, to produce the concentrated aerosol 240. According to the present invention, the concentrated aerosol 240 should typically contain greater than about 1 x

107 droplets per cubic centimeter, and more preferably from about 5 x 107 to about 5 x

108 droplets per cubic centimeter. A concentration of about 1 x 108 droplets per cubic centimeter of the concentrated aerosol is particularly preferred, because when the concentrated aerosol 240 is loaded more heavily than that, then the frequency of collisions between droplets becomes large enough to impair the properties of the concentrated aerosol 240, resulting in potential contamination of the particulate product 116 with an undesirably large quantity of over-sized particles. For example, if the aerosol 108 has a concentration of about 1 x 107 droplets per cubic centimeter, and the aerosol concentrator 236 concentrates droplets by a factor of 10, then the concentrated aerosol 240 will have a concentration of about 1 x 108 droplets per cubic centimeter. Stated

.another way, for example, when the aerosol generator generates the aerosol 108 with a

-22- droplet loading of about 0.167 milliliters liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, the concentrated aerosol 240 would be loaded with about 1.67 milliliters of liquid feed 102 per liter of carrier gas 104, assuming the aerosol 108 is concentrated by a factor of 10. Having a high droplet loading in aerosol feed to the furnace provides the important advantage of reducing the heating demand on the furnace 110 and the size of flow conduits required through the furnace. Also, other advantages of having a dense aerosol include a reduction in the demands on cooling and particle collection components, permitting significant equipment and operational savings. Furthermore, as system components are reduced in size, powder holdup within the system is reduced, which is also desirable. Concentration of the aerosol stream prior to entry into the furnace 110, therefore, provides a substantial advantage relative to processes that utilize less concentrated aerosol streams.

The excess carrier gas 238 that is removed in the aerosol concentrator 236 typically includes extremely small droplets that are also removed from the aerosol 108. Preferably, the droplets removed with the excess carrier gas 238 have a weight average size of smaller than about 1.5 microns, and more preferably smaller than about 1 micron and the droplets retained in the concentrated aerosol 240 have an average droplet size of larger than about 2 microns. For example, a virtual impactor sized to treat an aerosol stream having a weight average droplet size of about three microns might be designed to remove with the excess carrier gas 238 most droplets smaller than about 1.5 microns in size. Other designs are also possible. When using the aerosol generator 106 with the present invention, however, the loss of these very small droplets in the aerosol concentrator 236 will typically constitute no more than about 10 percent by weight, and more preferably no more than about 5 percent by weight, of the droplets originally in the aerosol stream that is fed to the concentrator 236. Although the aerosol concentrator 236 is useful in some situations, it is normally not required with the process of the present invention, because the aerosol generator 106 is capable, in most circumstances, of generating an aerosol stream that is sufficiently dense. So long as the aerosol stream coming out of the aerosol generator 102 is sufficiently dense, it is preferred that the aerosol concentrator not be used. It is a significant advantage of the present invention that the aerosol generator 106 normally generates such a dense aerosol stream that the

-23- aerosol concentrator 236 is not needed. Therefore, the complexity of operation of the aerosol concentrator 236 and accompanying liquid losses may typically be avoided.

It is important that the aerosol stream (whether it has been concentrated or not) that is fed to the furnace 110 have a high droplet flow rate and high droplet loading as would be required for most industrial applications. With the present invention, the aerosol stream fed to the furnace preferably includes a droplet flow of greater than about 0.5 liters per hour, more preferably greater than about 2 liters per hour, still more preferably greater than about 5 liters per hour, even more preferably greater than about 10 liters per hour, particularly greater than about 50 liters per hour and most preferably greater than about 100 liters per hour; and with the droplet loading being typically greater than about 0.04 milliliters of droplets per liter of carrier gas, preferably greater than about 0.083 milliliters of droplets per liter of carrier gas 104, more preferably greater than about 0.167 milliliters of droplets per liter of carrier gas 104, still more preferably greater than about 0.25 milliliters of droplets per liter of carrier gas 104, particularly greater than about 0.33 milliliters of droplets per liter of carrier gas 104 and most preferably greater than about 0.83 milliliters of droplets per liter of carrier gas 104.

As discussed previously, the aerosol generator 106 should produce a concentrated, high quality aerosol of micro-sized droplets having a relatively narrow size distribution. It has been found, however, that for many applications the process of the present invention is significantly enhanced by further classifying by size the droplets in the aerosol 108 prior to introduction of the droplets into the furnace 110. In this manner, the size .and size distribution of particles in the particulate product 116 are further controlled.

Referring now to Fig. 23, a process flow diagram is shown including droplet classification. As shown in Fig. 23, the aerosol 108 from the aerosol generator 106 goes to a droplet classifier 280 where oversized droplets are removed from the aerosol 108 to prepare a classified aerosol 282. Liquid 284 from the oversized droplets that are being removed is drained from the droplet classifier 280. This drained liquid 284 may advantageously be recycled for use in preparing additional liquid feed 102.

Any suitable droplet classifier may be used for removing droplets above a predetermined size. For example, a cyclone could be used to remove over-size droplets.

A preferred droplet classifier for many applications, however, is an impactor.

-24- In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the droplet classifier 280 is typically designed to remove droplets from the aerosol 108 that are larger than about 15 microns in size, more preferably to remove droplets larger than about 10 microns in size, even more preferably to remove droplets of a size larger than about 8 microns in size and most preferably to remove droplets larger than about 5 microns in size. The droplet classification size in the droplet classifier is preferably smaller than about 15 microns, more preferably smaller than about 10 microns, even more preferably smaller than about 8 microns and most preferably smaller than about 5 microns. The classification size, also called the classification cut point, is that size at which half of the droplets of that size are removed and half of the droplets of that size are retained. Because the aerosol generator

106 generally produces a high quality aerosol 108, having a relatively narrow size distribution of droplets, typically less than about 30 weight percent of liquid feed 102 in the aerosol 108 is removed as the drain liquid 284 in the droplet classifier 288, with preferably less than about 25 weight percent being removed, even more preferably less than about 20 weight percent being removed and most preferably less than about 15 weight percent being removed. Minimizing the removal of liquid feed 102 from the aerosol 108 is particularly important for commercial applications to increase the yield of high quality particulate product 116. It should be noted, however, that because of the superior performance of the aerosol generator 106, it is frequently not required to use an impactor or other droplet classifier to obtain a desired absence of oversize droplets to the furnace. This is a major advantage, because the added complexity and liquid losses accompanying use of an impactor may often be avoided with the process of the present invention.

Sometimes it is desirable to use both the aerosol concentrator 236 and the droplet classifier 280 to produce an extremely high quality aerosol stream for introduction into the furnace for the production of particles of highly controlled size and size distribution. By using both a virtual impactor and an impactor, both undesirably large and undesirably small droplets are removed, thereby producing a classified aerosol with a very narrow droplet size distribution. Also, the order of the aerosol concentrator 236 and the aerosol classifier 280 could be with either device positioned first. Typically, however, the aerosol concentrator 236 will be positioned ahead of the droplet classifier 280.

-25- With some applications of the process of the present invention, it may be possible to collect the particles 112 directly from the output of the furnace 110. More often, however, it will be desirable to cool the particles 112 exiting the furnace 110 prior to collection of the particles 112 in the particle collector 114. Referring now to Fig. 24, a process flow diagram is shown including active particle cooling prior to collection. As shown in Fig. 24, the particles 112 exiting the furnace 110 are sent to a particle cooler 320 to produce a cooled particle stream 322, which is then feed to the particle collector 114. Although the particle cooler 320 may be any cooling apparatus capable of cooling the particles 112 to the desired temperature for introduction into the particle collector 114, traditional heat exchanger designs are not preferred. This is because a traditional heat exchanger design ordinarily directly subjects the aerosol stream, in which the hot particles 112 are suspended, to cool surfaces. In that situation, significant losses of the particles 112 occur due to thermophoretic deposition of the hot particles 112 on the cool surfaces of the heat exchanger. According to the present invention, a gas quench apparatus is provided for use as the particle cooler 320 that significantly reduces thermophoretic losses compared to a traditional heat exchanger.

Referring now to Figs. 25-27, one embodiment of a gas quench cooler 330 is shown. The gas quench cooler includes a perforated conduit 332 housed inside of a cooler housing 334 with an annular space 336 located between the cooler housing 334 and the perforated conduit 332. In fluid communication with the annular space 336 is a quench gas inlet box 338, inside of which is disposed a portion of an aerosol outlet conduit 340. The perforated conduit 332 extends between the aerosol outlet conduit 340 and an aerosol inlet conduit 342. Attached to an opening into the quench gas inlet box 338 are two quench gas feed tubes 344. Referring specifically to Fig. 27, the perforated tube 332 is shown. The perforated tube 332 has a plurality of openings 345. The openings 345, when the perforated conduit 332 is assembled into the gas quench cooler 330, permit the flow of quench gas 346 from the annular space 336 into the interior space 348 of the perforated conduit 332. Although the openings 345 are shown as being round holes, any shape of opening could be used, such as slits. Also, the perforated conduit 332 could be a porous screen, or other porous barrier through which the quench gas 346 may be introduced into the interior space 348. Two heat radiation shields 347 prevent

-26- downstream radiant heating from the furnace. In most instances, however, it will not be necessary to include the heat radiation shields 347, because downstream radiant heating from the furnace is normally not a significant problem. Use of the heat radiation shields

347 is not preferred due to particulate losses that accompany their use. With continued reference to Figs. 25-27, operation of the gas quench cooler 330 will now be described. During operation, the particles 112, carried by and dispersed in a gas stream, enter the gas quench cooler 330 through the aerosol inlet conduit 342 and flow into the interior space 348 of perforated conduit 332. Quench gas 346 is introduced through the quench gas feed tubes 344 into the quench gas inlet box 338. Quench gas 346 entering the quench gas inlet box 338 encounters the outer surface of the aerosol outlet conduit 340, forcing the quench gas 346 to flow, in a spiraling, swirling manner, into the annular space 336, where the quench gas 346 flows through the openings 345 through the walls of the perforated conduit 332. Preferably, the gas 346 retains some swirling motion even after passing into the interior space 348. In this way, the particles 112 are quickly cooled with low losses of particles to the walls of the gas quench cooler

330. In this manner, the quench gas 346 enters in a radial direction into the interior space

348 of the perforated conduit 332 around the entire periphery, or circumference, of the perforated conduit 332 and over the entire length of the perforated conduit 332. The cool quench gas 346 mixes with and cools the hot particles 112, which then exit through the aerosol outlet conduit 340 as the cooled particle stream 322. The cooled particle stream

322 can then be sent to the particle collector 114 for particle collection. The temperature of the cooled particle stream 322 is controlled by introducing more or less of the quench gas 346. Also, as shown in Fig. 25, the quench gas 346 is fed into the quench cooler 330 in counter flow to flow of the particles. Alternatively, the quench cooler could be designed so that the quench gas 346 is fed into the quench cooler in concurrent flow with the flow of the particles 112. The amount of quench gas 346 fed to the gas quench cooler 330 will depend upon the specific material being made and the specific operating conditions. The quantity of quench gas 346 used, however, must be sufficient to reduce the temperature of the aerosol steam including the particles 112 to the desired temperature. Typically, the particles 112 are cooled to a temperature at least below about

200 °C, and often lower. The only limitation on how much the particles 112 are cooled

-27- is that the cooled particle stream 322 must be at a temperature that is above the condensation temperature for water or another condensable vapor in the stream. The temperature of the cooled particle stream 322 is often at a temperature of from about 50°C to about 120°C. Because of the entry of quench gas 346 into the interior space 348 of the perforated conduit 322 in a radial direction about the entire circumference and length of the perforated conduit 322, a buffer of the cool quench gas 346 is formed about the inner wall of the perforated conduit 332, thereby significantly inhibiting the loss of hot particles 112 due to thermophoretic deposition on the cool wall of the perforated conduit 332. In operation, the quench gas 346 exiting the openings 345 and entering into the interior space 348 should have a radial velocity (velocity inward toward the center of the circular cross-section of the perforated conduit 332) of larger than the thermophoretic velocity of the particles 112 inside the perforated conduit 332 in a direction radially outward toward the perforated wall of the perforated conduit 332. As seen in Figs. 25-27, the gas quench cooler 330 includes a flow path for the particles 112 through the gas quench cooler of a substantially constant cross-sectional shape and area. Preferably, the flow path through the gas quench cooler 330 will have the same cross-sectional shape and area as the flow path through the furnace 110 and through the conduit delivering the aerosol 108 from the aerosol generator 106 to the furnace 110.

Also, particle cooling in the quench cooler 330 is accomplished very quickly, reducing the potential for thermophoretic losses during cooling. The total residence time for the aerosol flowing through both the heated zone of the furnace 110 and through the quench cooler is typically shorter than about 5 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 2 seconds, and most preferably shorter than about 1 second.

In some instances, however, it may be desirable to reduce the cross-sectional area available for flow prior to the particle collector 114. This is the case, for example, when the particle collector includes a cyclone for separating particles in the cooled particle stream 322 from gas in the cooled particle stream 322. This is because of the high inlet velocity requirements into cyclone separators.

-28- Referring now to Fig. 31 , one embodiment of the gas quench cooler 330 is shown in combination with a cyclone separator 392. The perforated conduit 332 has a continuously decreasing cross-sectional area for flow to increase the velocity of flow to the proper value for the feed to cyclone separator 392. Attached to the cyclone separator 392 is a bag filter 394 for final clean-up of overflow from the cyclone separator 392.

Separated particles exit with underflow from the cyclone separator 392 and may be collected in any convenient container. The use of cyclone separation is often preferred for powder having a weight average size of larger than about 1 micron, although a series of cyclones may sometimes be needed to get the desired degree of separation. Cyclone separation is particularly preferred for powders having a weight average size of larger than about 1.5 microns. Also, cyclone separation is best suited for high density materials. Preferably, when particles are separated using a cyclone, the particles are of a composition with specific gravity of greater than about 5.

In an additional embodiment, the process of the present invention can also incorporate compositional modification of the particles 112 exiting the furnace. Most commonly, the compositional modification will involve forming on the particles 112 a material phase that is different than that of the particles 112, such as by coating the particles 112 with a coating material. One embodiment of the process including particle coating is shown in Fig. 28. As shown in Fig. 28, the particles 112 exiting from the furnace 110 go to a particle coater 350 where a coating is placed over the outer surface of the particles 112 to form coated particles 352, which are then sent to the particle collector 114 for preparation of the particulate product 116.

In the particle coater 350, the particles 112 are coated using any suitable particle coating technology, such as by gas-to-particle conversion. Preferably, however, the coating is accomplished by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and/or physical vapor deposition (PVD). In CVD coating, one or more vapor phase coating precursors are reacted to form a surface coating on the particles 112. Preferred coatings deposited by CVD include oxides, such as silica, alumina, titania and zirconia, and elemental metals. For example, silica may be deposited using a silane precursor, such as tetrachlorosilane. In PVD coating, coating material physically deposits on the surface of the particles 112.

Preferred coatings deposited by PVD include organic materials and elemental metals,

-29- such as elemental silver, copper and gold. Another possible surface coating method is surface conversion of the surface portion of the particles 112 by reaction with a vapor phase reactant to convert a surface portion of the particles to a different material than that originally contained in the particles 112. Although any suitable apparatus may be used for the particle coater 350, when a gaseous coating feed involving coating precursors is used, such as for CVD and PVD, feed of the gaseous coating feed is introduced through a circumferentially perforated conduit, such as was described for the quench cooler 330 with reference to Figs. 25-27. In some instances, the quench cooler 330 may also act as the particle coater 350, when coating material precursors are included in the quench gas 346.

With continued reference primarily to Fig. 28, in a preferred embodiment, when the particles 112 are coated, the particles 112 are also manufactured via an aerosol process, as previously described. The process can, however, be used to coat particles that have been premanufactured by a different process, such as by a liquid precipitation route. When coating particles that have been premanufactured by a different route, such as by liquid precipitation, it is preferred that the particles remain in a dispersed state from the time of manufacture to the time that the particles are introduced in slurry form into the aerosol generator 106 for preparation of the aerosol 108 to form the dry particles 112 in the furnace 110, which particles 112 can then be coated in the particle coater 350. Maintaining particles in a dispersed state from manufacture through coating avoids problems associated with agglomeration and redispersion of particles if particles must be redispersed in the liquid feed 102 for feed to the aerosol generator 106. For example, for particles originally precipitated from a liquid medium, the liquid medium containing the suspended precipitated particles could be used to form the liquid feed 102 to the aerosol generator 106. It should be noted that the particle coater 350 could be an integral extension of the furnace 110 or could be a separate piece of equipment.

In a further embodiment of the process, following preparation of the particles 112 in the furnace 110, the particles 112 may then be structurally modified to impart desired physical properties prior to particle collection. Referring now to Fig. 29, one embodiment of the process is shown including such structural particle modification. The particles 112 exiting the furnace 110 go to a particle modifier 360 where the particles are

-30- structurally modified to form modified particles 362, which are then sent to the particle collector 114 for preparation of the particulate product 116. The particle modifier 360 is typically a furnace, such as an annealing furnace, which may be integral with the furnace 110 or may be a separate heating device. Regardless, it is important that the particle modifier 360 have temperature control that is independent of the furnace 110, so that the proper conditions for particle modification may be provided separate from conditions required of the furnace 110 to prepare the particles 112. The particle modifier 360, therefore, typically provides a temperature controlled environment and necessary residence time to effect the desired structural modification of the particles 112. The structural modification that occurs in the particle modifier 360 may be any modification to the crystalline structure or morphology of the particles 112. For example, the particles 112 may be annealed in the particle modifier 360 to densify the particles 112 or to recrystallize the particles 112 into a polycrystalline or single crystalline form. Also, especially in the case of composite particles 112, the particles may be annealed for a sufficient time to permit redistribution within the particles 112 of different material phases.

The initial morphology of composite particles made in the furnace 110, according to the present invention, could take a variety of forms, depending upon the specified materials involved and the specific processing conditions. Examples of some possible composite particle morphologies, manufacturable according to the present invention are shown in Figs. 30A-F. These morphologies could be of the particles as initially produced in the furnace 110 or that result from structural modification in the particle modifier 360. Furthermore, the composite particles could include a mixture of the morphological attributes shown in Figs. 30A-F. When making multi-phase particles, a preferred multi-phase particle includes a metallic phase, such as with at least one of palladium, silver, nickel and copper, and a nonmetallic phase. Preferred for the nonmetallic phase is at least one of silica, alumina, titania and zirconia. Another preferred nonmetallic phase includes a titanate, .and preferably a titanate of at least one of barium, strontium, neodymium, calcium, magnesium and lead.

-31- Use of the ultrasonic generator is preferred for the process of the present invention because of the extremely high quality and dense aerosol generated. In some instances, however, the aerosol generator for the process of the present invention may have a different design depending upon the specific application. For example, when larger particles are desired, such as those having a weight average size of larger than about 3 microns, a spray nozzle atomizer may be preferred. For smaller-particle applications, however, and particularly for those applications to produce particles smaller than about 3 microns, and preferably smaller than about 2 microns in size, as is generally desired with the particles of the present invention, the ultrasonic generator, as described herein, is particularly preferred. In that regard, the ultrasonic generator is particularly preferred for when making particles with a weight average size of from about 0.2 micron to about 3 microns.

Although ultrasonic aerosol generators have been used for medical applications and home humidifiers, use of ultrasonic generators for spray pyrolysis particle manufacture has largely been confined to small-scale, experimental situations. The ultrasonic aerosol generator described with reference to Figures 2-21, however, is well suited for commercial production of high quality powders with a small average size and a narrow size distribution. In that regard, the aerosol generator produces a high quality aerosol, with heavy droplet loading and at a high rate of production. Such a combination of small droplet size, narrow size distribution, heavy droplet loading, and high production rate provide significant advantages over existing aerosol generators that usually suffer from at least one of inadequately narrow size distribution, undesirably low droplet loading, or unacceptably low production rate.

Through the careful and controlled design of the ultrasonic generator, an aerosol may be produced typically having greater than about 70 weight percent (and preferably greater than about 80 weight percent) of droplets in the size range of from about 1 micron to about 10 microns, preferably in a size range of from about 1 micron to about 5 microns and more preferably from about 2 microns to about 4 microns. Also, the ultrasonic generator should be capable of delivering high output rates of liquid feed in the aerosol. The rate of liquid feed, at the high liquid loadings previously described, is preferably greater than about 25 milliliters per hour per transducer, more preferably greater than

-32- about 37.5 milliliters per hour per transducer, even more preferably greater than about 50 milliliters per hour per transducer and most preferably greater than about 100 millimeters per hour per transducer. This high level of performance is desirable for commercial operations and is preferably accomplished with the present invention with a relatively simple design including a single precursor bath over an array of ultrasonic transducers, as described. The ultrasonic generator is made for high aerosol production rates at a high droplet loading, and with a narrow size distribution of droplets. The generator preferably produces an aerosol at a rate of greater than about 0.5 liter per hour of droplets, more preferably greater than about 2 liters per hour of droplets, still more preferably greater than about 5 liters per hour of droplets, even more preferably greater than about 10 liters per hour of droplets and most preferably greater than about 40 liters per hour of droplets. For example, when the aerosol generator has a 400 transducer design, as described with reference to Figures 3-21, the aerosol generator is capable of producing a high quality aerosol having high droplet loading as previously described, at a total production rate of preferably greater than about 10 liters per hour of liquid feed, more preferably greater than about 15 liters per hour of liquid feed, even more preferably greater than about 20 liters per hour of liquid feed and most preferably greater than about 40 liters per hour of liquid feed.

Under most operating conditions, when using such an ultrasonic aerosol generator, total particulate product produced is preferably greater than about 0.5 gram per hour per transducer, more preferably greater than about 0.75 gram per hour per transducer, even more preferably greater than about 1.0 gram per hour per transducer and most preferably greater than about 2.0 grams per hour per transducer.

The concentrations of soluble precursors in the liquid feed 102 will vary depending upon the particular materials involved and the particular particle composition and particle morphology desired. For most applications, when soluble precursor(s) are used, the soluble precursor(s) are present at a concentration of from about 1-50 weight percent of the liquid feed. 102. In any event, however, when soluble precursors are used, the precursors should be at a low enough concentration to permit the liquid feed to be ultrasonically atomized and to prevent premature precipitation of materials from the

-33- liquid feed 102. The concentration of suspended particulate precursors will also vary depending upon the particular materials involved in the particular application.

One significant aspect of the process of the present invention for manufacturing particulate materials is control of heating and flow characteristics in the furnace 110. In that regard, the present invention is significantly different than laboratory scale systems.

With the present invention, the maximum Reynolds number attained for flow in the furnace 110 is advantageously controlled to be a very high value in relation to previous spray pyrolysis systems. Typically the maximum Reynolds number in the furnace 110 is controlled to be in excess of 500, preferably in excess of 1,000 and more preferably in excess of 2,000. In most instances, however, the maximum Reynolds number for flow in the furnace 110 will not exceed 10,000, and preferably will not exceed 5,000. This is significantly different from laboratory-scale systems where the Reynolds number for flow in a reactor is typically maintained at lower than 50, and rarely exceeds 100.

The Reynolds number is a dimensionless quantity characterizing flow of a fluid, which for flow through a circular cross sectional conduit is defined as:

Re = pyd μ where: p = fluid density; v = fluid mean velocity; d = conduit inside diameter; and μ = fluid viscosity.

It should be noted that the values for density, velocity and viscosity will vary along the length of the furnace 110. The maximum Reynolds number in the furnace 110 is typically attained when the average stream temperature is at a maximum, because the gas velocity is at a very high value due to gas expansion when heated.

A significant advantage of operating at a high Reynolds number in the furnace 110 is that the process can be operated with high throughput, which is especially advantageous when processing a highly dense aerosol, as discussed previously. One problem with operating under flow conditions at a high Reynolds number, however, is that undesirable volatilization of components is much more likely to occur than in systems having flow characteristics as found in the previously known laboratory-scale

-34- systems. The volatilization problem occurs because, with the present invention, the furnace 110 is typically operated over a substantial section of the heating zone in a constant wall heat flux mode, due to limitations in heat transfer capability. This is significantly different than operation of a furnace 110 at a laboratory scale, which typically involves operation of most of the heating zone of the furnace 110 in a uniform wall temperature mode, because the heating load is sufficiently small that the system is not heat transfer limited.

With the present invention, it is typically preferred to heat the aerosol stream in the heating zone of the furnace 110 as quickly as possible to the desired temperature range for particle manufacture. Because of flow characteristics in the furnace 110 and heat transfer limitations, during rapid heating of the aerosol the wall temperature of the furnace 110 can significantly exceed the maximum average target temperature for the stream. This is a problem because, even though the average stream temperature may be within the range desired, the wall temperature may become so hot that components in the vicinity of the wall are subjected to temperatures high enough to undesirably volatilize the components. This volatilization near the wall of the furnace 110 can cause formation of significant quantities of ultrafme particles that are outside of the size range desired.

Therefore, with the present invention, it is preferred that when the flow characteristics in the furnace 110 are such that the Reynolds number through any part of the furnace 110 exceeds 500, more preferably exceeds 1,000, and most preferably exceeds 2,000, the maximum wall temperature in the furnace 110 should be kept at a temperature that is below the temperature at which any desired component of the final particles would exert a vapor pressure exceeding about 200 millitorr, more preferably exceeding about 100 millitorr, and most preferably exceeding about 50 millitorr. Furthermore, the maximum wall temperature in the furnace 110 should also be kept below a temperature at which an intermediate component, from which a final component is to be at least partially derived, would exert a vapor pressure exceeding the magnitudes noted above for components of the final product.

In addition to maintaining the wall temperature in the furnace 110 below a level that could create volatilization problems, it is also important that this not be accomplished at the expense of the desired average stream temperature. The maximum

-35- average stream temperature must be maintained at a high enough level so that the particles will have a desired high density. The maximum average stream temperature should, however, generally be a temperature at which a component in the final particles, or an intermediate component from which a component in the final particles is at least partially derived, would exert a vapor pressure not exceeding about 100 millitorr, preferably not exceeding about 50 millitorr, and most preferably not exceeding about 25 millitorr.

So long as the maximum wall temperature and the average stream temperature are kept below the point at which detrimental volatilization occurs, it is generally desirable to heat the stream as fast as possible and to remove resulting particles from the furnace

110 immediately after the maximum average stream temperature is reached in the furnace 110. With the present invention, the average residence time in the heating zone of the furnace 110 may typically be maintained at shorter than about 4 seconds, preferably shorter than about 2 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 1 second, still more preferably shorter than about 0.5 second, and most preferably shorter than about 0.2 second.

Another significant issue with respect to operating the process of the present invention, which includes high aerosol flow rates, is loss within the system of materials intended for incorporation into the final particulate product. Material losses in the system can be quite high if the system is not properly operated. If system losses are too high, the process would not be practical for commercial use in the manufacture of particulate products of many materials. This has typically not been a major consideration with laboratory-scale systems.

One significant potential for loss with the process of the present invention is thermophoretic losses that occur when a hot aerosol stream is in the presence of a cooler surface. In that regard, the use of the quench cooler, as previously described, with the process of the present invention provides an efficient way to cool the particles without unreasonably high thermophoretic losses. There is also, however, significant potential for losses occurring near the end of the furnace 110 and between the furnace 110 and the cooling unit (such as the particle cooler 320, as shown in Fig. 24).

-36- It has been found that thermophoretic losses in the back end of the furnace 119 can be significantly controlled if the heating zone of the furnace 110 is operated such that the maximum average stream temperature is not attained until near the end of the heating zone in the furnace 110, and at least not until the last third of the heating zone. When the heating zone includes a plurality of heating sections, the maximum average stream temperature should ordinarily not occur until at least the last heating section. Furthermore, the heating zone should typically extend to as close to the exit of the furnace 110 as possible. This is counter to conventional thought which is to typically maintain the exit portion of the furnace at a low temperature to avoid having to seal the furnace outlet at a high temperature. Such cooling of the exit portion of the furnace 110, however, significantly promotes thermophoretic losses. Furthermore, the potential for operating problems that could result in thermophoretic losses at the back end of the furnace 110 are reduced with the very short residence times in the furnace 110 for the present invention, as discussed previously. Typically, it would be desirable to instantaneously cool the aerosol upon exiting the furnace 110. This is not possible. It is possible, however, to make the residence time between the outlet of the furnace 110 and the cooling unit as short as possible. Furthermore, it is desirable to insulate the portion of the aerosol conduit occurring between the furnace 110 exit and the cooling unit entrance. Even more preferred is to insulate that conduit portion and to also heat that conduit portion so that the wall temperature of that conduit portion is at least as high as the average stream temperature of the aerosol stream, and preferably higher. Furthermore, it is desirable that the cooling unit operate in a manner such that the aerosol is quickly cooled in a manner to prevent thermophoretic losses during cooling. The quench cooler, described previously, is very effective for cooling with low losses. Furthermore, to keep the potential for thermophoretic losses very low, it is preferred that the residence time of the aerosol stream between attaining the maximum average stream temperature in the furnace 110 and a point at which the aerosol has been cooled to an average stream temperature below about 200 °C is shorter than about 2 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 1 second, and even more preferably shorter than about 0.5 second and most preferably shorter than about 0.1 second. In most instances, the maximum average stream

-37- temperature attained in the furnace 110 will be greater than about 800°C. Furthermore, the total residence time from the beginning of the heating zone in the furnace 110 to a point at which the average stream temperature is at a temperature below about 200 °C should typically be shorter than about 5 seconds, preferably shorter than about 3 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 2 seconds, and most preferably shorter than about 1 second.

Another part of the process with significant potential for thermophoretic losses is after particle cooling until the particles are finally collected (such as in the particle collector 114, as shown in Fig. 24). Proper particle collection is very important to reducing losses within the system. The potential for thermophoretic losses is significant following particle cooling because the aerosol stream is still at an elevated temperature to prevent detrimental condensation of water in the aerosol stream. Therefore, cooler surfaces of particle collection equipment can result in significant thermophoretic losses.

With reference to Fig. 24, to reduce the potential for thermophoretic losses before the particles are finally collected, it is important that the transition between the particle cooler 320 and particle collector 114 be as short as possible. Preferably, the output from the quench cooler is immediately sent to a particle separator, such as a filter unit or a cyclone. In that regard, the total residence time of the aerosol between attaining the maximum average stream temperature in the furnace 110 and the final collection of the particles in the particle collector 114 is preferably shorter than about 2 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 1 second, still more preferably shorter than about 0.5 second and most preferably shorter than about 0.1 second. Furthermore, the residence time between the beginning of the heating zone in the furnace 110 and final collection of the particles in the particle collector 114 is preferably shorter than about 6 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 3 seconds, even more preferably shorter than about 2 seconds, and most preferably shorter than about 1 second. Furthermore, the potential for thermophoretic losses may further be reduced by insulating the conduit section between the particle cooler 320 and the particle collector 114 and, even more preferably, by also insulating around the filter, when a filter is used for particle collection. The potential for losses may be reduced even further by heating of the conduit section between the particle cooler 320 and the particle collector 114, so that the internal equipment surfaces are at

-38- least as warm as, and preferably at least slightly warmer than, the aerosol stream average stream temperature at that location. Furthermore, when a filter is used for particle collection, the filter could be heated. For example, insulation could be wrapped around a filter unit, with electric heating inside of the insulating layer to maintain the walls of the filter unit at a desired elevated temperature higher than the temperature of filter elements in the filter unit, thereby reducing thermophoretic particle losses to walls of the filter unit. Even with careful operation to reduce thermophoretic losses, some losses will still occur. For example, some particles will inevitably be lost to walls of particle collection equipment, such as the walls of a cyclone or filter housing. One way to reduce these losses, and correspondingly increase product yield, is to periodically wash the interior of the particle collection equipment to remove particles adhering to the sides. In most cases, the wash fluid will be water, unless water would have a detrimental effect on one of the components of the particles. For example, the particle collector 114 could include parallel collection paths. One path could be used for active particle collection while the other is being washed. The wash could include an automatic or manual flush without disconnecting the equipment. Alternatively, the equipment to be washed could be disconnected to permit access to the interior of the equipment for a thorough wash. As an alternative to having parallel collection paths, the process could simply be shut down occasionally to permit disconnection of the equipment for washing. The removed equipment could be replaced with a clean piece of equipment and the process could then be resumed while the disconnected equipment is being washed.

For example, a cyclone or filter unit could periodically be disconnected and particles adhering to interior walls could be removed by a water wash. The particles could then be dried in a low temperature dryer, typically at a temperature of lower than about 50 °C.

In one embodiment, wash fluid used to wash particles from the interior walls of particle collection equipment includes a surfactant. Some of the surfactant will adhere to the surface of the particles. This could be advantageous to reduce agglomeration tendency of the particles and to enhance dispersibility of the particles in a thick film past formulation. The surfactant could be selected for compatibility with the specific paste formulation anticipated.

-39- Another area for potential losses in the system, and for the occurrence of potential operating problems, is between the outlet of the aerosol generator 106 and the inlet of the furnace 110. Losses here are not due to thermophoresis, but rather to liquid coming out of the aerosol and impinging and collecting on conduit and equipment surfaces. Although this loss is undesirable from a material yield standpoint, the loss may be even more detrimental to other aspects of the process. For example, water collecting on surfaces may release large droplets that can lead to large particles that detrimentally contaminate the particulate product. Furthermore, if accumulated liquid reaches the furnace 110, the liquid can cause excessive temperature gradients within the furnace tube, which can cause furnace tube failure, especially for ceramic tubes. One way to reduce the potential for undesirable liquid buildup in the system is to provide adequate drains, as previously described. In that regard, it is preferred that a drain be placed as close as possible to the inlet of the furnace 110 to prevent liquid accumulations from reaching the furnace 110. The drain should be placed, however, far enough in advance of the furnace 110 inlet such that the stream temperature is lower than about 80 ° C at the drain location.

Another way to reduce the potential for undesirable liquid buildup is for the conduit between the outlet of the aerosol generator 106 and the inlet of the furnace 110 to maintain the conduit flow path between the aerosol generator 106 and the furnace 110 at a substantially constant cross sectional area and configuration. Preferably, the conduit beginning with the outlet of the aerosol generator 106, passing through the furnace 110 and continuing to at least the inlet of the particle cooler 320, and preferably through the particle cooler 320, is of a substantially constant cross sectional area and geometry. In a preferred embodiment, the conduit is a circular in cross-section and includes a substantially uniform interior diameter. Another way to reduce the potential for undesirable buildup is to heat at least a portion, and preferably the entire length, of the conduit between the aerosol generator 106 and the inlet to the furnace 110. For example, the conduit could be wrapped with a heating tape to maintain the inside walls of the conduit at a temperature higher than the temperature of the aerosol. The flowing aerosol 114 would then tend to concentrate toward the center of the conduit due to thermophoresis. Fewer aerosol droplets would,

-40- therefore, be likely to impinge on conduit walls or other surfaces making the transition to the furnace 110.

Another way to reduce the potential for undesirable liquid buildup is to introduce a dry gas into the aerosol between the aerosol generator and the furnace 110. Referring now to Fig. 32, one embodiment of the process is shown for adding a dry gas 118 to the aerosol 108 before the furnace 110. Addition of the dry gas 118 causes vaporization of at least a part of the moisture in the aerosol 108, and preferably substantially all of the moisture in the aerosol 108, to form a dried aerosol 119, which is then introduced into the furnace 110. The dry gas 118 will most often be dry air, although in some instances it may be desirable to use dry nitrogen gas or some other dry gas. If a sufficient quantity of the dry gas 118 is used, the droplets of the aerosol 108 are substantially completely dried to beneficially form dried precursor particles in aerosol form for introduction into the furnace 110, where the precursor particles are then pyrolyzed to make a desired particulate product 112. Also, the use of the dry gas 118 typically will reduce the potential for contact between droplets of the aerosol and the conduit wall, especially in the critical area in the vicinity of the inlet to the furnace 110. In that regard, a preferred method for introducing the dry gas 118 into the aerosol 108 is from a radial direction into the aerosol 108. For example, equipment of substantially the same design as the quench cooler, described previously with reference to Figs. 25-27, could be used, with the aerosol

108 flowing through the interior flow path of the apparatus and the dry gas 118 being introduced through a perforated wall of the perforated conduit. An alternative to using the dry gas 118 to dry the aerosol 108 would be to use a low temperature thermal preheater/dryer prior to the furnace 110 to dry the aerosol 108 prior to introduction into the furnace 110. This alternative is not, however, preferred.

Still another way to reduce the potential for losses due to liquid accumulation is to operate the process with equipment configurations such that the aerosol stream flows in a vertical direction from the aerosol generator 106 to and through the furnace 110. For smaller-size particles, those smaller than about 1.5 microns, this vertical flow should, preferably, be vertically upward. For larger-size particles, such as those larger than about

1.5 microns, the vertical flow is preferably vertically downward.

-41- Furthermore, with the process of the present invention, the potential for system losses is significantly reduced because the total system retention time from the outlet of the generator until collection of the particles is typically shorter than about 10 seconds, preferably shorter than about 7 seconds, more preferably shorter than about 5 seconds and most preferably shorter than about 3 seconds.

Powders of a variety of materials may be made according to the present invention, with the powders so produced being an important aspect of the invention.

With the present invention, these various powders may be made with very desirable attributes for a variety of applications. In that regard, the powders are typically made with a small weight average particle size, narrow particle size distribution, spheroidal particle shape, and high density relative to a theoretical density for the material of the particles. Also, the particles of the powder typically are either substantially single crystalline or are polycrystalline and with a large mean crystallite size.

With respect to particle size, the powders are characterized generally as having a weight average particle size that typically is in the range of from about 0.05 micron to about 4 microns, with most powders having a weight average size of from about 0.1 micron to about 3 microns. With the process of the present invention, however, particle size may generally be controlled to provide particles with a desired size. Particle size is varied primarily by altering the frequency of ultrasonic transducers in the aerosol generator and by altering the concentration of precursors in the liquid feed. Lower ultrasonic frequencies tend to produce larger particles, while higher frequencies tend to produce smaller particles. Also, higher precursor concentrations in the liquid feed tend to produce larger particles and lower precursor concentrations in the liquid feed tend to produce smaller particles. The particles are typically characterized as having a weight average particle size in a range having a lower limit, depending upon the application, of from about 0.1 micron, or about 0.2 micron, or about 0.3 micron, or about 0.5 micron, or about 0.8 micron, or about 1 micron; and having an upper limit, depending upon the application, of about 4 microns, or about 3 microns, or about 2.5 microns, or about 2 microns, or about 1 micron, or about 0.8 micron, or about 0.6 micron. Powders having a weight average size range defined by any combination of one of the specified upper limits and

-42- one of the specified lower limits are within the scope of the present invention, so long as the upper limit is larger than the lower limit. Some particularly preferred ranges for weight average particle size are provided below in discussions specific to certain material. The powders are also characterized as having a narrow particle size distribution, typically with greater than about 75 weight percent, preferably greater than about 90 weight percent, and more preferably greater than about 95 weight percent of the particles in the powder having a size of smaller than two times the weight average particle size, and even more particularly smaller than about 1.5 times the weight average particle size. The powders are also typically characterized as being comprised of spheroidal particles. In that regard, the particles are substantially spherical, in that the particles are not jagged or irregular in shape, although the particles may become faceted as the crystallite size in the particles increases. Spheroidal particles are advantageous because they typically have increased dispersibility and flowability in paste formulations relative to jagged or irregular particles.

Although in some instances the powders may be made as very porous or hollow particles, the powders are usually characterized as being very dense, with the particles typically having a density of at least about 80%, preferably at least about 90% and more preferably at least about 95%, of a theoretical density. The theoretical density is that density that particles would have assuming that the particles included zero porosity. As used herein, the density of a particle is as measured by helium pycnometry. High particle density is particularly advantageous for thick film applications involving a fired film, because higher density particles tend to exhibit reduced shrinkage during sintering than highly porous particles. The powders are further characterized as typically having a high degree of purity, with generally no more than about 0.1 atomic percent impurities and preferably no more than about 0.01 atomic percent impurities. One significant characteristic of the powders of the present invention is that they may be made to be substantially free of organic materials, if desired, and particularly to be substantially free of surfactants. This is a significant advantage over particles made by a liquid route, which typically include

-43- residual surfactants. These residual surfactants can significantly impair the utility of the particles, especially in making thick film pastes.

EXAMPLES The following examples are provided to aid in understanding of the present invention, and are not intended to in any way limit the scope of the present invention. Example 1

This example demonstrates preparation of multi-phase particles of either neodymium titanate or barium titanate with various metals. A titanate precursor solution is prepared for each of barium titanate and neodymium titanate. The barium titanate precursor solution is prepared by dissolving barium nitrate in water and then, with rapid stirring, adding titanium tetraisopropoxide. A fine precipitate is formed. Sufficient nitric acid is added to completely dissolve the precipitate. Precursor solutions of various metals are prepared by dissolving the metal salt in water. The neodymium titanate precursor solution is prepared in the same way except using neodymium nitrate.

The titanate precursor solution and the metal precursor solution are mixed in various relative quantities to obtain the desired relative quantities of titanate and metal components in the final particles. The mixed solutions are aerosolized in an ultrasonic aerosol generator with transducers operated at 1.6 MHz and the aerosol is sent to a furnace where droplets in the aerosol are pyrolyzed to form the desired multi-phase particles. Air or nitrogen is used as a carrier gas, with tests involving copper and nickel also including hydrogen in an amount of 2.8 volume percent of the carrier gas. Results are summarized in Table 2. Example 2

A variety of materials are made according to the process of the present invention, with some materials being made with and some being made without droplet classification prior to the furnace. Various single phase and multi-phase (or composite) particles are made as well as several coated particles. Tables 3 through 8 tabulate various of these materials and conditions of manufacture.

-44- Table 2

Composite Metal Precursor(s) Temperature °C Carrier Gas

75/25 Pd/BaTi03 nitrate 1000 N2

Ag:Pd/BaTi03 (1) nitrate 600 - 1100 air

75/25 Ag:Pd/BaTi03 nitrate 1000 air

75/25 Ni/BaTiOj nitrate 1200 N2+H2

75/25 Ni/Ne2Ti07 nitrate 1200 N2+H2

75/25 Cu/BaTi03 nitrate 1200 N2+H2

75/25 Cu/BaTiO? nitrate 1200 N2+H2

50/50 Pt/BaTi03 chloroplatinic acid 1 100 air

(1) 70:30 Ag:Pd alloy, BaTi03 varied from 5 to 90 weight percent of the composite.

(2 30:70 Ag:Pd alloy.

-45- Table 3 Phosphors

Reactor Carrier

Material Precursor(4) Temp °C Gas

Y203:Eu Yttrium nitrate, chloride or acetate and europium 500-1 100 Air dopant nitrate(1)(2)

CaTi03 Titanium tetraisopropoxide and calcium nitrate(1) 600-800 Air, N2,02

CaTiOa "Tyzor"(3) and calcium nitrateitanium 600-800 Air, N2,02 tetraisoperoxide and calcium nitrate10

CaS Calcium carbonate and thioacetic acid, various 800-1100 N2 dopants as metal salts(l)

MgS Magnesium carbonate and thioacetic acid, various 800- 1100 N2 dopants as metal salts(1)

SrS Strontium carbonate and thioacetic acid, various 800-1100 N2 dopants as metal salts(1)

BaS Barium carbonate and thioacetic acid, various 800-1100 N2 dopants as metal salts(1)

ZnS Zinc nitrate and thiourea, various dopants as metal 800-950 N2 salts(1)

ZnS Zinc nitrate and thiourea, MnCl2 as dopant(1) 950 N2

Ca,Sr,.xS Metal carbonates or hydroxides and thioacetic acid, 800-1100 N2 various dopants as metal salts(I)

MfeSr^S Metal carbonates or hydroxides and thioacetic acid, 800-1100 N2 various dopants as metal salts(1)

ZnS Znx(OH)y(C03)z particles in colloidal suspension, 800-950 N2 various dopants as metal salts, thioacetic acid

ZnO:Zn(4) Zinc nitrate(1) 700-900 N2 + H2 Mixture

(1) In aqueous solution

(2) Urea addition improves densification of particles

(3) Metal organic sold by DuPont

(4) Some Zn reduced to Zn during manufacture, the amount of reduction being controllable.

-46- Table 4 Pure Metals

Material Precursor Temperature °C Carrier Gas

Pd nitrate 900-1500 N2

Ag nitrate 900 - 1400 air

Ni nitrate 700-1400 N2 + H2

Cu nitrate 700 - 1400 N2 + H2

Pt chloroplatinic acid 900- 1500 air (H2PtCl6.H20)

Au chloride 500-1100 air

Table 5 Metal Alloys

Material Precursors Temperature °C Carrier Gas

70/30 Pd/Ag nitrates 900 - 1400 N2

70/30 Ag/Pd nitrates 900-1500 N2

50/50 Ni/Cu nitrates 1100 N2 + H2

50/50 CuNi nitrates 1200 N2 + H2

70/30 Cu/Zn nitrates 1000 N2 + H2

90/10 Cu/Sn nitrates 1000 N2 + H2

50/50 PtPd chloroplatinic acid 1100 N2 palladium nitrate

-47- Table 6 Coated Particles

Core Precursor(s) Coating Precursor(s) Coating Reactor Carrier

Material Method Temp °C Gas

PbO coating iron sulfate in Pb(N03)2 in aqueous PVD 900 H2 + N2 on Fe304 core aqueous solution solution mixture

Pb coating on iron sulfate in lead nitrate in PVD 900 H2 + N2 Fe204 core aqueous solution aqueous solution mixture

PbO coating Ruthenium nitrosyl Pb(N03)2 in aqueous PVD 1100 N2 on Ru02 core nitrate in aqueous solution solution

MgO coating Bismuth and Magnesium acetate in CVD 800 02 on Bi2Ru2073 ruthenium nitrates aqueous solution core in aqueous solution

Si02 coating Palladium nitrate in CVD 1 100- N2 on Pd core aqueous solution SiCl4 1300

Ti02 coating Palladium nitrate in TiCl4 CVD 1 100- N2 on Pd core aqueous solution 1300

-48- Table 7 Composites

Reactor Carrier

Material Precursor(s) Temp °C Gas

PbO/Fe304 Colloidal suspension of Fe304 particles in 500-800 Air aqueous solution of Pb(N03)2

Pd/Si02 (1) 60 nm Si02 particles suspended in aqueous 900-1 100 N2 solution of Pb(N03)2

Pd/Si02 (2) 200 nm Si02 particles suspended in aqueous 1100 N2 solution of Pb(N03)2

Pd/BaTi03 Pd(N03), Ba(N03)2 and Ti(N03)4 in aqueous 1100 N2 solution

Pd/Ti02 (4) Pd(N03)2 and Ti(OiPr)4 (3) in aqueous solution 1100 N2

Pd/Al203 (6) Pd(N03)2 and Al(OsecBu)2 (5) in aqueous solution 1 100 N2

Pd/Ti02 (7) PdN03 in aqueous solution slurried with 0.25 1100 N2 micron Ti02 particles

Ag/Ti02 (8) Ag(N03)2 aqueous solution with suspended 0.25 900 N2 micron Ti02 particles

Pt Ti02 (9) K2PtCl4 aqueous solution with suspended 0.25 1100 N2 micron Ti02 particles

Ag/TiO2 (10) AgNCβ aqueous solution with colloidal Ti02 900 N2 particles

Au/Ti02 (11) Colloidal Au and Ti02 particles in aqueous 900 N2 liquid.

(1) Moφhology of particles changes from intimately mixed Pd/Si02 to SiOz coating over Pd as reactor temperature is increased.

(2) Coating of Pd on Si02 particles. (3) Titanium tetraisopropoxide.

(4) Metal dispersed on high surface area Ti02 support.

(5) Al[OCH (CH3)C2H5]3.

(6) Metal dispersed on high surface area A1203 support.

(7) Pd coating on Ti02 particles. (8) Ag coating on Ti02 particles.

(9) Pt coating on Ti02 particles.

(10) Ti02 coating on Ag particles.

(11) Ti02 coating on Au particles.

-49- While various specific embodiments of the process of the present invention and the apparatus of the present invention for preparing powders are described in detail, it should be recognized that the features described with respect to each embodiment may be combined, in any combination, with features described in any other embodiment, to the extent that the features are compatible. For example, any or all of the aerosol concentrator, aerosol classifier, particle cooler, particle coater, particle modifier and other described process/apparatus components may be incorporated into the apparatus and/or process of the present invention. Also, additional apparatus and/or process steps may be incorporated to the extent they do not substantially interfere with operation of the process of the present invention or the apparatus useful therefor.

Also, while various embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail, it is apparent that modifications and adaptations to those embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. It is to be expressly understood, however, that such modifications and adaptations are within the scope of the present invention, as set forth in the claims below. Further, it should be recognized that any feature of any embodiment disclosed herein can be combined with any other feature of any other embodiment in any combination.

-50-

Claims

What is Claimed is:
1. An aerosol method for making a particulate product, the method comprising the steps of: generating a flowing aerosol including droplets suspended in a carrier gas, the generating comprising sweeping away with the carrier gas the droplets as the droplets are released from a reservoir of an ultrasonically energized flowable medium, the flowable medium comprising a liquid and at least one precursor for a material to be included in the particulate product; forming in the flowing aerosol particles including the material, the step of forming the particles comprising conducting the flowing aerosol through a furnace where the flowing aerosol is heated; wherein, flow of the flowing aerosol through the furnace is controlled to attain a maximum Reynolds Number that is larger than about 500.
2. The method of Claim 1 , wherein the flowing aerosol attains a maximum average stream temperature in the furnace at a location corresponding with the location where the flowing aerosol attains the maximum Reynolds Number.
3. The method of Claim 2, wherein the maximum average stream temperature in the furnace is from about 500┬░ to about 1500┬░C.
4. The method of Claim 1 , wherein the maximum Reynolds number attained in the furnace is larger than about 1000.
5. The method of Claim 1 , wherein the maximum Reynolds number attained in the furnace is larger than about 2000.
6. The method of Claim 1 , wherein the maximum Reynolds number attained in the furnace is in a range of from about 500 to about 10,000.
7. The method of Claim 1 , wherein the maximum Reynolds number attained in the furnace is in a range of from about 500 to about 5000.
8. The method of Claim 1, wherein the furnace has a flow path through which the flowing aerosol is conducted, the flow path having a substantially circular cross-sectional area perpendicular to the direction of flow of the flowing aerosol.
9. An aerosol method for making a particulate product, the method comprising the steps of:
-51- generating a flowing aerosol including droplets suspended in a carrier gas, the generating comprising sweeping away with the carrier gas the droplets as the droplets are released from a reservoir of an ultrasonically energized flowable medium, the flowable medium comprising a liquid and at least one precursor for a material to be included in the particulate product; forming in the flowing aerosol particles including the material, the step of forming the particles comprising conducting the flowing aerosol through a furnace where the flowing aerosol is heated; after the step of forming the particles, cooling the flowing aerosol, including the particles; and after the step of cooling the flowing aerosol, collecting the particles; wherein, the flowing aerosol attains a maximum average stream temperature at a location in the furnace and the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the location and completion of the cooling step is shorter than about two seconds.
10. The method of Claim 9, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the location and collection of the particles is smaller than about two seconds.
11. The method of Claim 9, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the location and completion of the cooling step is shorter than about one second.
12. The method of Claim 9, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the location and completion of the cooling step is shorter than about 0.5 second.
13. The method of Claim 9, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the location and completion of the cooling step is shorter than about 0.1 second.
14. The method of Claim 9, wherein the maximum average stream temperature is higher than about 500┬░C and the temperature of the flowing aerosol at the completion of the cooling step is lower than about 200 ┬░C.
15. The method of Claim 14, wherein the maximum average stream temperature is higher than about 800 ┬░C.
16. The method of Claim 9, wherein the flowing aerosol is heated in a heating zone of the furnace, the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the beginning of the heating zone and particle collection is smaller than about six seconds.
-52-
17. An aerosol method for making a particulate product, the method comprising the steps of: generating, in an aerosol generator, a flowing aerosol including droplets suspended in a carrier gas, the generating comprising sweeping away with the carrier gas the droplets as the droplets are released from a reservoir of an ultrasonically energized flowable medium, the flowable medium comprising a liquid and at least one precursor for a material to be included in the particulate product, the flowing aerosol exiting the aerosol generator through a generator outlet; forming in the flowing aerosol particles including the material, the step of forming the particles comprising conducting the flowing aerosol through a furnace where the flowing aerosol is heated; after the step of forming the particles, cooling the flowing aerosol, including the particles; after the step of cooling the flowing aerosol, collecting the particles; wherein, the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the aerosol generator and particle collection is shorter than about 10 seconds.
18. The method of Claim 17, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the generator outlet and particle collection is shorter than about seven seconds.
19. The method of Claim 17, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the generator outlet and particle collection is shorter than about five seconds.
20. The method of Claim 17, wherein the residence time of the flowing aerosol between the generator outlet and particle collection is shorter than about three seconds.
21. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the reservoir of the flowable medium is maintained during the step of generating the flowing aerosol at a temperature of higher than about 30┬░C.
22. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the reservoir of the flowable medium is maintained during the step of generating flowing aerosol at a temperature in a range of from about 30 ┬░C to about 50 ┬░C.
-53-
23. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein at least a portion of a heating zone in the furnace is operated in a constant wall heat flux mode of heat transfer.
24. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol contacts a hot interior wall in the furnace, the wall having a wall temperature that is maintained, during the step of conducting the flowing aerosol through the furnace, at a temperature that is lower than a temperature at which any component of the particles, or any intermediate for any component of the particles, exhibits a vapor pressure of higher than about 200 millitorr.
25. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol contacts a hot interior wall in the furnace, the wall having a wall temperature that is maintained, during the step of conducting the flowing aerosol through the furnace, at a temperature that is lower than a temperature at which any component of the particles, or any intermediate for any component of the particles, exhibits a vapor pressure of higher than about 100 millitorr.
26. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol contacts a hot interior wall in the furnace, the wall having a wall temperature that is maintained, during the step of conducting the flowing aerosol through the furnace, at a temperature that is lower than a temperature at which any component of the particles, or any intermediate for any component of the particles, exhibits a vapor pressure of higher than about 50 millitorr.
27. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol attains a maximum average stream temperature in the furnace that is lower than a temperature at which any component of the particles, or any intermediate for any component of the particles, exhibits a vapor pressure of higher than about 100 millitorr.
28. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol attains a maximum average stream temperature in the furnace that is lower than a temperature at which any component of the particles, or any intermediate for any component of the particles, exhibits a vapor pressure of higher than about 50 millitorr.
29. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol attains a maximum average stream temperature in the furnace that is lower than
-54- a temperature at which any component of the particles, or any intermediate for any component of the particles, exhibits a vapor pressure of higher than about 25 millitorr.
30. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol attains a maximum average stream temperature in a heating zone of the furnace, the maximum average stream temperature occurring at a location in the last third of the heating zone through which the flowing aerosol flows.
31. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol is heated in a heating zone of the furnace; and the residence time of the flowing aerosol between entering the heating zone and the end of the cooling step is shorter than about five seconds.
32. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol is heated in a heating zone of the furnace; and the residence time of the flowing aerosol between entering the heating zone and the end of the cooling step is shorter than about three seconds.
33. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein, in the furnace, the flowing aerosol is heated in a heating zone of the furnace; and the residence time of the flowing aerosol between entering the heating zone and attaining a temperature of lower than about 200 ┬░C in the cooling step is shorter than about two seconds.
34. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein, during the step of cooling, the flowing aerosol is cooled in a cooling unit, the flowing aerosol being conducted from the furnace to the cooling unit through an insulated conduit.
35. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein, during the step of cooling, the flowing aerosol is cooled in a cooling unit, the flowing aerosol being conducted from the furnace to the cooling unit through a conduit that is insulated and heated.
36. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol is conducted from the step of cooling to the step of collecting through an insulated conduit.
-55-
37. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein flow of the flowing aerosol is conducted from the step of cooling to the step of collecting through a conduit that is insulated and heated.
38. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein, during the step of collecting, the particles are collected in a particle collection unit, at least a portion of interior surfaces of the particle collection unit being periodically washed with a liquid to remove at least a portion of the particles adhering to the interior surfaces.
39. The method of Claim 38, wherein the liquid includes a surfactant.
40. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein, during the step of generating, the flowing aerosol is generated in an aerosol generator; the flowing aerosol being conducted from the aerosol generator to the furnace through a conduit; and the flow path through the conduit and the furnace having a substantially constant cross-sectional area and geometry.
41. The method of Claim 40, wherein the flow path has a substantially circular cross-sectional geometry.
42. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowing aerosol is conducted from the generating step to the furnace through a heated conduit.
43. The method of Claim 42, wherein the conduit is insulated.
44. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein, between the step of generating the flowing aerosol and introduction of the flowing aerosol into the furnace, a dry gas is introduced into the flowing aerosol to evaporate at least a portion of the liquid in the droplets.
45. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein flow of the flowing aerosol through the furnace is in a substantially vertical direction.
46. The method of Claim 45, wherein the particles have a weight average size of larger than about 1.5 microns and flow of the flowing aerosol through the furnace is in a substantially vertically downward direction.
47. The method of Claim 45, wherein the particles have a weight average size of smaller than about 1.5 microns and flow of the flowing aerosol through the furnace is in a substantially vertically upward direction.
-56-
48. The method of Claim 47, wherein, during the generating step, the flowing aerosol is generated in an aerosol generator, the flowing aerosol being conducted from the aerosol generator to the furnace in a substantially vertically extending conduit, flow of the flowing aerosol through the conduit is in a substantially vertically upward direction.
49. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein during the cooling step the temperature of the flowing aerosol is decreased from a temperature of higher than about 500┬░C to a temperature of lower than about 200┬░C.
50. The method of any one of Claims 9 through 20, wherein during the cooling step the temperature of the flowing aerosol is cooled by addition of a quench gas to the flowing aerosol.
51. The method of Claim 50, wherein, during the cooling step, the quench gas is introduced into the flowing aerosol through a perforated wall of a conduit through which the flowing aerosol is flowing.
52. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the furnace includes a plurality of heating sections, and the flowing aerosol attains a maximum stream temperature in the last of the plurality of heating sections.
53. The method of any one of Claims 1 through 20, wherein the flowable medium is ultrasonically energized by a plurality of ultrasonic transducers underlying the reservoir of the flowable medium.
54. The method of Claim 53, wherein the plurality of ultrasonic transducers includes at least 16 ultrasonic transducers.
55. The method of Claim 53, wherein during the step of generating the flowing aerosol, the carrier gas is delivered from a plurality of gas delivery outlets each positioned over a different portion of the reservoir of the flowable medium.
-57-
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